Thursday, May 5, 2016

REVIEW: The Secrets of Lizzie Borden by Brandy Purdy

The Secrets of Lizzie Borden
by Brandy Purdy

Publisher: Kensington
Page Count: 384
Release Date: January 26, 2016
Format: ARC Paperback

How got: GoodReads Giveaway

First attention getter: subject matter


From GoodReads:

In her enthralling, richly imagined new novel, Brandy Purdy, author of The Ripper’s Wife, creates a compelling portrait of the real, complex woman behind an unthinkable crime.

Lizzie Borden should be one of the most fortunate young women in Fall River, Massachusetts. Her wealthy father could easily afford to provide his daughters with fashionable clothes, travel, and a rich, cultured life. Instead, haunted by the ghost of childhood poverty, he forces Lizzie and her sister, Emma, to live frugally, denying them the simplest modern conveniences.

Suitors and socializing are discouraged, as her father views all gentleman callers as fortune hunters. Lonely and deeply unhappy, Lizzie stifles her frustration, dreaming of the freedom that will come with her eventual inheritance. But soon, even that chance of future independence seems about to be ripped away.

And on a stifling August day in 1892, Lizzie’s long-simmering anger finally explodes…

Vividly written and thought-provoking, The Secrets of Lizzie Borden explores the fascinating events behind a crime that continues to grip the public imagination—a story of how thwarted desires and desperate rage could turn a dutiful daughter into a notorious killer.

My Thoughts:

Star Rating - 4

I’m a bit mixed on this book. I liked the dark overtone and getting into the mind of an American legend. Yet, there were aspects of her character that I extremely disliked (a goal of the author maybe??), and the flow of the story stream seemed to be skewed to a degree that was confusing and, at times, unenjoyable.

Purdy definitely knows how to set an atmosphere and create a vivid picture. At times, these things can get a bit too graphic (thinking the multiple discussions of Lizzie’s bodily functions). But the miserly life that Lizzie was forced to lead, the constrictions, her escapes, the trial, her later years haunted by shunning and her reputation all create an amazing background for Lizzie’s life story.

My favorite part of this whole book was getting into Lizzie’s head. We got to see what motivated her, her inner urges, and her struggles/triumphs. I liked how human the author made her, almost to other extreme of making her too unlikable. There were times when I was very exasperated at Lizzie; if I knew her in real life, I can safely say that I wouldn’t like her much either. Yet, that speaks to the author’s skill; even though I didn’t like Lizzie, I still rooted for her.

I do wish the balance of the story had been a little different. Much time was spent on establishing Lizzie’s earlier life: how miserable she was, her family dynamics, her trying to find herself in a society that is rigid as all hell, and her search for any type of love. By the time we got to the murder and trial bits, we seem to be on overdrive in that all the page spent on these is maybe an eighth of the book. Then we go back to our glacier pace in exploring Lizzie’s life post-trial, facing prejudice, apathy, and general shunning by most everyone in her life.

Now both parts of her journey, pre- and post- trial, are interesting as heck for the most part; it’s what explores her innermost thoughts and motivations after all. Yet, I was really hungering for more on the trial itself and its immediate impact on Lizzie and her community. Seeing how such a case got so muddled with counter testimony and the Victorian attitude that a respectable woman just couldn’t do such a crime was what I was really looking for along with getting to know Lizzie as an individual. So sad loss there…

Even though I could have wished for more aspects of the story, that’s a personal wish; another reader may find the balance of the story elements work for them. I liked how the author got into Lizzie’s head. A woman who can be driven to such a bloody, violent crime makes for interesting reading, whether you like her or not. I enjoyed this foray into the underbelly of Victorian society. I think others would as well.

Note: Book received for free from publisher via GR giveaway in exchange for an honest review.

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