Schmidt is less interested in contriving a new version of what 'really' happened on that fateful morning in 1892 than in plunging the reader into a claustrophobic nexus of family resentments and frustrations, probing obsessively at the faultline between love and hate ... The blurring of voices and perceptions, particularly between Lizzie and Benjamin, and obsessive repetition of words and symbols only add to the irresistible momentum and fevered intensity of the book: part fairytale, part psychodrama ... At the same time, much backstory is cleverly withheld: there are hints at Lizzie’s instability, but we bring our own assumptions to her character ... We get only glimpses into the particular hell of the Borden household; the fact that we can fill in the blanks from our own darkest places draws us closer, more uncomfortably, in. Schmidt’s unusual combination of narrative suppression and splurge makes for a surprising, nastily effective debut.
Schmidt paints a picture of a house in crisis, stroke by violent stroke ... Her eerie voice makes for intense, dizzying reading, conveying the corrupt atmosphere of the house, the suffocating sense of wrongness every character seems to feel under the skin ... Schmidt inhabits each of her narrators with great skill, channeling their anxieties, their viciousness, with what comes across as (frighteningly) intuitive ease. Everything about Schmidt’s novel is hauntingly, beautifully off. It’s a creepy and penetrating work, even for a book about Lizzie Borden.
Sarah Schmidt's debut novel is a terrifically dread-inducing, claustrophobic, nightmarish immersion in a fictional version of one of the most famous crimes in American history ... Schmidt turns those facts about the case into a tense psychological study of family dysfunction, painted with a vividness bordering on the hallucinogenic. The reader is drawn into a house that feels as if it is slowly strangling its inhabitants ... Schmidt skillfully manages the challenge of writing about a historical murder case by introducing elements that make us doubt what we think we know ... I don't know whether many authors invite such haunting by their characters, but in Schmidt's case it led to a gripping and accomplished novel. Readers of See What I Have Done may feel haunted by Lizzie Borden, too.