See What I Have Done is one of the most creepy reads for me so far this year. This novel is a fictional take on the infamous Lizzie Borden case. For those not familiar with the story Lizzie Borden was charged with the murders of her father and step-mother back in 1892 and was famously acquitted of both murders. Schmidt tells her version of what may have happened that fateful day.
The absolute highlight of this novel was the evocative writing. You feel as though you are right there with Lizzie and her family. This is not necessarily a happy thing. This is a brutal story that is stifling and leaves the reader feeling repulsed. This isn’t even necessarily in regards to the murders but the daily life within that house. It was creepy and gross and you wanted to look away but couldn’t help but continue. I would go as far as to say at times the writing almost feels like you are in a horror novel. The reader experiences this constant feeling of impending doom, a quiet menace within the pages. I found myself hooked and drawn in from the very beginning.
In all honesty there is minimal plot within this novel and most of it is pretty well expected from the beginning. There is, however, such detail within the characters and their nuances that you feel as though they are real people. Each of the characters we meet is vivid and layered. Lizzie was a terrifying character and incredibly addictive at the same time. She was intense, selfish and quite creepy. It is hard to imagine her as an adult, her behaviour is quite childlike and this sets the scene perfectly. Emma, Lizzie’s sister, was a fascinating character that as a rider you develop sympathy for. Two further characters narrate chapters of the book and are fascinating in their own unique ways.
I loved the slow build of the novel into the climax that we are all anticipating. The ending was perfect, the writing exemplary and I found a sense of gratification at the conclusion. If you want a novel that leaves you feeling creeped out and wanting to wash your hands after reading it, then this is the book for you. The tone and writing was perfection and one understands how Schmidt created such a vivid, whole character in Lizzie when you read how she came to write this novel (seriously, go look it up). I give See What I Have Done four of Lizzie’s pigeons.