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“All the innocent crime seemed alright at the time”

trial of lizzie borden

I really wanted to like this book more than I did. The Trial of Lizzie Borden is thoroughly researched and Cara Robertson’s writing is clear and moves the narrative along quickly. But it turns out that without the wild speculation that goes along with the Borden case, I really don’t find the story of Lizzie Borden all that interesting. She seems like an upper class white lady who wanted more money than her father would allow her and resented her stepmother’s very presence and probably got away with murder. I frankly found myself wishing that Abigail Borden (Lizzie’s ill-fated stepmother) had taken an axe to the entire Borden family and lived out her days as a rich but notorious widow with Bridget as her housekeeper/confidante.

For the few of you out there who might be unfamiliar, Andrew and Abby Borden were discovered hacked to death in their home one hot summer day in 1892. Lizzy, their respective daughter and stepdaughter fell under suspicion and her trial became one of the most notorious in American history. She was eventually acquitted, though many people (including me) still believe that it was more due to the fact that she was a young gentlewoman and the jury was entirely male. Robertson makes no judgement one way or another on the page and leaves it to the reader to decide Lizzie’s guilt or innocence. Her research into the trial and the subsequent media frenzy are excellent. I did find the parts that talked about the media to be more interesting than the trial itself which was often repetitive and dull (as most real trials are).

It’s not my intention to steer anyone away from this book who might be interested. It is exactly what it purports to be and it does its job very well. But perhaps in the current time when white women are weaponizing their tears against black people and rich white dudes seem to be breaking the law openly and with no real consequence, Lizzie Borden just isn’t very sympathetic without all the conjecture that surrounds her story.

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