See What I Have Done by Sarah Schmidt

See What I Have Done
By Sarah Schmidt
Publisher: Atlantic Monthly Press
ISBN13: 9780802126597
Pages:  328
Genre: Historical Fiction/Mystery


In this riveting debut novel, See What I Have Done, Sarah Schmidt recasts one of the most fascinating murder cases of all time into an intimate story of a volatile household and a family devoid of love.

On the morning of August 4, 1892, Lizzie Borden calls out to her maid: Someone’s killed Father. The brutal ax-murder of Andrew and Abby Borden in their home in Fall River, Massachusetts, leaves little evidence and many unanswered questions. While neighbors struggle to understand why anyone would want to harm the respected Bordens, those close to the family have a different tale to tell—of a father with an explosive temper; a spiteful stepmother; and two spinster sisters, with a bond even stronger than blood, desperate for their independence.

As the police search for clues, Emma comforts an increasingly distraught Lizzie whose memories of that morning flash in scattered fragments. Had she been in the barn or the pear arbor to escape the stifling heat of the house? When did she last speak to her stepmother? Were they really gone and would everything be better now? Shifting among the perspectives of the unreliable Lizzie, her older sister Emma, the housemaid Bridget, and the enigmatic stranger Benjamin, the events of that fateful day are slowly revealed through a high-wire feat of storytelling.


Retellings and historical fiction occupy a large portion of space among my shelves. True crime and mysteries equally reside next to them. So picking up See What I Have Done was an effortless process. A historical re-imagining of the Borden murders offered promises of intrigue and suspense that were not to be ignored.

Schmidt provides a fictionalized glimpse into the days before, during and after the Borden axe murders that kicks off with Lizzie’s discovery of her father’s gruesome death. What ensues is a somewhat odd tale offered through multiple points of view. We are introduced to Lizzie, her family and those immediately involved through a series of narration that felt at times, unnecessary and missed the mark for me on a few levels.

I struggled with the alternating perspectives, as I found myself lacking interest when not directly engaged with Lizzie’s story. The addition of alternating PoV read more like a distraction that took from the overall effect as opposed to adding to it. I did enjoy being introduced to the remaining Borden family and maid Bridget, but I would have personally preferred to experience this tale solely through the eyes of our young protagonist.

I struggled with the relaxed pace and absence of urgency. I anticipated more excitement surrounding the heinous crime that was committed in the Borden household. I did come to appreciate the rich, atmospheric and slow burn style of story that was supplied with a truly unique prose, but ultimately encountered a few issues that hindered my time with the book. Unfortunately, my digital copy was riddled with formatting and grammatical errors that created a challenge, and I often found myself walking away in frustration.

While See What I Have Done failed to fully capture my interest, I feel the author’s original take on an infamous mystery will still offer a unique experience that many will find great value in. If you have ever found yourself fascinated in the story of Lizzie Borden, I urge you to explore this novel and form your own opinion.

*I would like to thank Netgalley and Grove Atlantic for providing me with this copy in exchange for an honest and unbiased review.

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48 thoughts on “See What I Have Done by Sarah Schmidt

        1. I am seeing it more lately. I used Netgalley a lot in the past and it was not an issue. Now I am noticing it much more. I wonder if they are just making a push to have egalleys available sooner? It is driving me batter. I will dnf if it is too bad. My eyes are under enough strain and if I am forced to keep rereading.. well 😛


  1. I am trying to read this myself. I am a third of the way through and I am struggling with the perspectives, which is odd for me, but I also keep going back to all the mentions of pears! Then I think I want to make a pear tart, and that doesn’t end well!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Oooooo I’m so happy to finally see a review for this one! I think this book is going to do well because we love to read about some of the most heinous crimes in our history (see The Girls by Emma Cline). I am super bummed this one wasn’t a home run for you. It still sounds like a worth while read, but that it fell flat. I have to know… does the cover tie into the book at all?! lol

    Liked by 1 person

    1. The cover does tie in 😉 And it is a lovely cover. Being honest, I adored the concept and it had some fascination and unique moments. The PoV on this just didn’t work for me. But the formatting was the biggest downfall. I certainly recommend exploring it 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

    1. I think you might enjoy this one! Maybe if you pick up a finished copy, you will not have the formatting issues I encountered. And you are so right right about multiple PoV. It is becoming too common and is not always appropriate for the story. Thanks Twin Pea – xx


  3. I didn’t know a lot about the Lizzie Borden case before I started this one. I thought there would be a lot more mystery and the writing style didn’t work for me really.. this is not what I call an easy read. I felt too detached and I missed an emotional side to this story. I’m in the minority though, plenty of readers liked it, so everybody should just give this a chance and see for themselves if they are interested :-).


    1. I agree. The style was odd and as mentioned, I struggled with the author’s choice to implement multiple PoV. It didn’t work for me. There is certainly a detached affect happening that felt out of place. Maybe this would have worked better told solely through Lizzie’s voice?

      Liked by 1 person

  4. First of all- wow that cover! (sorry had to get that out my system 😉 ) Shame you struggled so much with the multiple perspectives and the absence of urgency- but gotta admit the grammatical errors would be the biggest issue for me!! And I know it’s an arc, so hopefully the finished product will be better- but man formatting issues annoy me too. Great review!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. The cover is a gem! I fell hard for it as well. I agree about the grammatical errors and formatting. I almost felt like I could have overcome some of my other issues if it were not for these. I am hopeful that the end product has been corrected. I think many will enjoy this more than myself 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  5. I’ve read a few reviews of See What I Have Done, and all seem to have in common the slow pace and the distraction of its multiple points of view. With your review, I’m finally crossing this one off my TBR list. Yay! One smaller!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. It might be worth checking it out when you have more time freed up 😉 There were moments when the writing shined with the author’s unique style. She did well with Lizzie, but yes pacing and PoV was off. I think the formatting issues truly added to the pacing problem. Have a great week Susie!


  6. Ah, the amount of times I’ve ran into the same issue of faltering in the ‘reading step’ because of alternating POVs which take you away from the direct matter at hand.. it’s so annoying… I don’t know if it’s done to build up suspense? Sometimes, when done really well, it works but most times it’s just bloody frustrating!
    Great review though… 😉

    Liked by 1 person

  7. That is a great and honest review. Personally I loved the book and I really enjoyed the read. I found the alternating narratives to be interesting and the whole book to be very atmospheric. However I totally get what you mean – there is a lack of urgency, there is no plot moving forward. It is a book that spreads to all sides and opens up an atmosphere rather than keeps you going forward with the storyline.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. Sorry to here about all these issues you had with this book. I have to say that I almost picked this up based on cover and its blurb. It really does sound like a solid story and take on a famous case, but it also seems to have tried to do more than it could handle! Great review, Danielle! 😉

    Liked by 1 person

    1. It was interesting, make no doubt about that. The concept is clever. I will not say that I regret reading it because I enjoyed certain elements. But the combination of odd narration, pacing and bad formatting created a challenge. Maybe pick up a finished copy? Would love to see your take 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

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