Review of The Borden Murders: Lizzie Borden & the Trial of the Century

miller_borden murdersThe Borden Murders: Lizzie Borden & the Trial of the Century
by Sarah Miller
Middle School   Schwartz & Wade/Random   284 pp.
1/16   978-0-553-49808-0   $17.99
Library ed. 978-0-553-49809-7   $20.99   g
e-book ed. 978-0-553-49810-3   $10.99

Lizzie Borden took an axe, / Gave her mother forty whacks. / When she saw what she had done, / She gave her father forty-one. “Today,” Miller writes in her introduction, “everything most people know of Lizzie Andrew Borden is contained in those four singsong lines of doggerel. And nearly everything in those four lines is wrong.” Miller then proceeds to relate both the immediate events leading up to the crime and the arguments for and against Borden that would eventually be used in the legal proceedings. The details sometimes can seem overwhelming, but by giving a play-by-play commentary of this whole affair, Miller is able to examine not just the enigma of Lizzie and the Borden family’s dynamics but also various swaths of late-nineteenth-century American social, cultural, political history that often receive extended treatment in sidebars. She also draws heavily on primary source quotations along wth interspersed maps and photographs, and everything is documented in the notes and bibliography in the back matter. The Borden Murders joins the growing body of narrative nonfiction that, despite reading like a novel and looking like a novel (in terms of its trim size), nevertheless scrupulously hews to the facts.

From the January/February 2016 issue of The Horn Book Magazine.

Jonathan Hunt
Jonathan Hunt is the coordinator of library media services at the San Diego County Office of Education.

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