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Lizzie Borden

Lizzie Borden

4.0 19
by Elizabeth Engstrom

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Did she do it?

A hundred years ago, it was the Trial of the Century. A young woman stood accused of brutally murdering her father and stepmother in a crime so heinous that it became a benchmark in human tragedy.

A hundred years later, the Lizzie Borden case still resounds in the imagination. There are those who staunchly defend Lizzie’s innocence


Did she do it?

A hundred years ago, it was the Trial of the Century. A young woman stood accused of brutally murdering her father and stepmother in a crime so heinous that it became a benchmark in human tragedy.

A hundred years later, the Lizzie Borden case still resounds in the imagination. There are those who staunchly defend Lizzie’s innocence while others behemently decleare that she did it, and that the murder was justified.

In Elizabeth Engstrom’s brilliant novel, the dark psychology of the Borden household is laid bare. Lizzie, her sister Emma and their parents Andrew and Abby Borden, are sharply illuminated—as are the paranoia and concealed hatred that secretly ruled the family. Domestic violence and dysfunctional families are not inventions of modern times.

“Every door in the Borden house is metaphorically locked, and each room olds the terrible secrets of its occupant…Engstrom skillfully and subtly builds a psychological plot, moving the reader inexorably toward the anticipated savage denouement.” —Publishers Weekly

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
In Engstrom's fictional treatment of the famous Lizzie Borden murder case of 1892--in which Lizzie allegedly kills both her parents but is acquitted--every door in the Borden house in Fall River, Mass., is metaphorically locked, and each room holds the terrible secrets of its occupant. Emma, Lizzie's older sister, wracked by uncontrollable rages, periodically flees to New Bedford to assuage her surreptitious appetites for sex, drink and violence. Paterfamilias Andrew Borden, tyrannical and penurious in equal measure, loves nothing but money (which he hoards obsessively), concealing his sinful thoughts and acts from his obese second wife, Abby. Lizzie appears to be a serene young woman, but only because, in the author's view, she has repressed another self--angry and long denied, it burns to emerge. At first Engstrom ( Black Ambrosia ) skillfully and subtly builds a psychological plot, moving the reader inexorably toward the anticipated savage denouement. But the very same restraint and innuendo used to good effect in the novel's early portions ill serve the final bloodbath, which approaches anticlimax. Engstrom's supernatural solution to a crime so inimitably real is a cop-out. (Jan.)
Library Journal
On a hot, sultry, August day in 1892 Lizzie Borden allegedly took an axe and ``gave her mother 40 whacks.'' Using the meager historical knowledge on Borden, mostly gained from trial transcripts and newspaper articles, Engstrom ( When Darkness Loves Us , LJ 2/1/85) has woven a fascinating, fresh tale of a lonely, tormented, and frustrated young woman. As Engstrom probes for a motive in the murder, she examines Lizzie's psyche and her role in her dysfunctional family. Raised by an austere older sister and her emotionally grasping but parsimonious father, she ignores her overweight, foodaholic stepmother. Seeking comfort and a sense of self, she finds temporary solace in brief relationships with women. Her father's possessiveness and stinginess thwart all her bids for freedom. Engstrom's hints at multiple personalities and other mental disorders give this fast-paced book a new approach to the Lizzie Borden enigma. For large fiction collections.-- Joan Hinkemeyer, Engle wood P.L., Col.
A Guran
Once in a while a publisher does something right. Forge, an imprint of Tom Doherty Associates, Inc. (better known for its primarily SF and fantasy imprint, Tor,) has done something precisely correct by reissuing Elizabeth Engstrom's 1991 Lizzie Borden in a handsome trade paperback.

Engstrom takes the legendary mayhem of the Fall River murder mystery and turns it into a brilliantly dark revelation of human psychology. She skillfully reveals, chapter by chapter, the secrets of the deeply dysfunctional Borden family by adroitly switching the narrative's point of view from one member of the household to another. We see reality through each pair of disturbed eyes and spiral deeper and deeper into what becomes inevitable tragedy.

Within a well-drawn and accurate historical context, Engstrom imaginatively reinterprets the fetid Borden family though a "modern" psychological plot, explaining events and motivation in terms of individual psychoses and hidden sexuality. The author also allows the stench of real evil, perhaps even supernatural evil, to permeate her rationale. Her characters -- Lizzie, her sister Emma, their father Andrew and stepmother Abby -- aren't just lost in a mental miasma, but sick to their very souls.

Engstrom has proven time and again that she is a masterful and intelligent writer. Her convincing characterization and taut plotting combine to produce that atmosphere of fear that Lovecraft told us was the essence of horror. Impending violence weighs heavy in the air of Lizzie Borden, air heavy with the sweat of nightmares, the reek of blood, the stale perfume of secrets and despair. You seldom get a second chance in life -- even your reading life -- so take this one. Lizzie Borden is not to be missed.

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Lizzie Borden 4.1 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 19 reviews.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I have read many books about Lizzie Borden over the years. None were as interesting as this one. I literally could not stop reading, once I had started it. The author has given new life to historical characters, that had become old and dusty.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I have been a Borden buff ever since learning about it from my father, when I was, yes, 4 years old. I was married at Lizzie Borden Bed and Breakfast museum, and have read just about everything imaginable about Lizzie. But this book is my favorite fiction Lizzie book. Once I picked up this book, I was unable to put in down. Dark and suspenseful, it was really different from any Lizzie book I have ever read before. And, I recommend this book to all Lizzie buffs because it is such an interesting and fun read. 5*****,
olleharr More than 1 year ago
What an interesting and thrilling way to weave facts into fiction. This story has so many twists and turns that I would have never thought of. The author did an amazing job breathing life and dimension into these characters. I had to keep reminding myself that this is fiction. Great book!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I just couldnt get past the part where she turns into a "ghost" to murder her parents. Just a tad far fetched for my tastes. I read the whole thing though.
shoop1 More than 1 year ago
I have always been interested in Lizzie Borden, and this book really let me into her life. I learned things about her that I never thought about. Anyone who wants a full disclosure of Lizzie Borden's life, and family should purchase this book. I definitley would buy other books by this author. Definitley a book for book discussions.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Not the best book I've read. It provided a few days diversion, but not worth paying over $2.99 for.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
STVessels More than 1 year ago
Both as literature and historical fiction this is an excellent novel. My knowledge of the history is limited; I can only say that, for me, the evocation of period and place was thoroughly convincing. For a tale destined to end in woe it is told with extraordinary compassion and sensitivity. Engstrom plays apologist for each member of the Borden household, including those with whom one might sympathize least, letting circumstances be seen through each of their eyes so that they all can be understood. She portrays their interior lives and motivations with meticulous and penetrating clarity. A couple of reviewers have suggested that the protagonist’s sexual orientation is the foremost revelation of the story. It struck me as more of a surface matter. Engstrom’s Lizzie has affairs with women, yes. (From what peripheral reading I’ve done that doesn’t seem much of a leap.) Is that the result of nature or nurture? It’s irrelevant. The underlying issue is how love and affection can become cancerous when bound to fear, obligation, and social expectation. Engstrom’s Lizzie is repressed in many ways, not just one. Load repression of personal freedom onto repression of individuality onto repression of potential onto repression of sexuality, sensuality, what have you, not just in that order but in multiple overlapping layers, one may as well park oneself on a bomb. That’s the portrait painted here, not only of one person but of a family dynamic. Engstrom illustrates, without resorting to heavy-handed gestures, how such a dynamic might evolve. Her examination is itself layered, tracing her protagonist’s psychological, emotional, sensual and spiritual development. In the latter respect she introduces an element of metaphysical chicanery that I found wonderfully effective: Lizzie is given a book, by a friend, that contains teachings reminiscent of Theosophy. What results demonstrates how playing with one’s mind can be a perilous business, particularly if one’s mind is under great strain. Engstrom’s Lizzie Borden has distinguished literary sisters. Charles Dickens’ Honoria Dedlock, Edith Wharton’s Lily Bart and Kate Chopin’s Edna Pontellier come readily to mind. One might nominate Victor Hugo’s Fantine, Tolstoy’s Anna Karenina, and Hardy’s Tess as first or second cousins. Unlike these relatives, Lizzie survives her ordeal with oppressive circumstances in a male-dominated society. Engstrom gives us much to reflect on in that distinction. What, for instance, constitutes self-defense? What circumstances justify and/or require it? Such questions are not posed outright, but rise, ghost-like, from the margins of the tale. But this is not a pretentious or ponderous novel. It read like the wind, drawing me along relentlessly, even against my will. A beautiful and insightful work of art. Highly recommended.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This book was way too slow. And a liyylr far fetched for the story. I was so far into the book i had to finish the story, though i would have gladly put the book down.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Great Book!!!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This book I did put down. I did not know about the family but the reviews were good. This book was too slow and the best part of the book the author did not spend enough time on it. Not my cup of tea.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This book was very riveting. I do plan to continue to read more on this subject. I recommend it highly.
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Anonymous More than 1 year ago
lizzie borden took an axe, went to her mother and gave her 40 wacks, and when she realized what she had done, she went to her father and gave him 41