The Broden Murders: Lizzie Borden and the Trial of the Century by Sarah Miller
Published on January 12, 2016
Genres: Crime, Middle Grade, Non-Fiction
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Here’s middle-grade nonfiction that reads like a thriller. With murder, court battles, and sensational newspaper headlines, the story of Lizzie Borden is compulsively readable and perfect for the Common Core.
Lizzie Borden took an axe, gave her mother forty whacks. When she saw what she had done, she gave her father forty-one.
In a compelling, linear narrative, Miller takes readers along as she investigates a brutal crime: the August 4, 1892, murders of wealthy and prominent Andrew and Abby Borden. The accused? Mild-mannered and highly respected Lizzie Borden, daughter of Andrew and stepdaughter of Abby. Most of what is known about Lizzie’s arrest and subsequent trial (and acquittal) comes from sensationalized newspaper reports; as Miller sorts fact from fiction, and as a legal battle gets under way, a gripping portrait of a woman and a town emerges.
With inserts featuring period photos and newspaper clippings—and, yes, images from the murder scene—readers will devour this nonfiction book that reads like fiction.
I know it probably sounds crazy, but I have a morbid obsession with murderers – especially historical. Like, Jack the Ripper is one of my favorites along with Lizzy Borden. I am a huge fan of Investigation Discovery, and movies based on killers, and all that crazy stuff. I have seen numerous movies and television shows based on the Borden murders. I was more than happy to have the opportunity to read this non-fiction account of the murders, since I have yet to read a book based on the murders.
Lizzie Borden took an axe,
Gave her mother forty whacks.
When she saw what she had done,
She gave her father forty-one.
I’m sure MANY of you have heard the old rhyme about our dear Lizzie. While it is incredibly inaccurate, it still paints a rather horrible picture. The beauty of this book is that it clears up all of the inaccuracies you may have believed about the Borden murders. Through very deep research, Miller details the entire course of the story, starting from the day of the murders and moving through the details of the police reports, newspaper articles, rumors, court hearings and the entire trial, and even finishes up Lizzie’s post-trial life story to the best of her ability.
I don’t read too many non-fiction books. They either have to be really funny and written by a celebrity I love, or a story or part of history that can be told without being completely boring and long and drawn out. Miller’s account of the Borden murders reads like a crime/thriller novel. It is fast paced, and to the point. She doesn’t spend too much time on her own speculations, she really sticks to the details and the speculations of people at the time. So it is interesting, historically accurate, and educational! Perfect for teens and adults that want to get a look into one of our histories strangest unsolved murder cases.
For people that are not familiar with the Borden murders, you should know that in 1892, Lizzie was accused of killing her father and step-mother, but was found not-guilty, and no other killer was ever found. It has been speculated over and studied throughout history. Of course everyone develops their own opinion of whether or not Lizzie was to blame. I like to leave it open. I have no opinion either way. BUT I like to believe if Lizzie did do it, she used one of the methods people speculated upon: she stripped herself of clothing so that there was no blood to be found on her clothes and bathed immediately. Also, IF she did it, she is a genius who managed to get away with murder. Of course, with today’s technologies she never would have. But I like the mystery of not knowing for sure. I highly recommend this book! Maybe afterwards you will have your own opinion of sweet Lizzie….
Andrew Borden now is dead.
Lizzie hit him on the head.
Up in heaven he will sing.
On the gallows she will swing.
Which do you find the hardest to write, the first or the last line of your novels? Why?
Definitely the last – for the same reason that saying hello to someone you’ve never met before is easier than saying goodbye to someone you’ll never meet again. I’m always a little antsy until I figure out what that last line will be – or at the very least, what note I want it to strike.
Which comes first in your writing process, the title, or the content of you story? (Do you always know what your book’s title is going to be?)
Content. Are there people who do it the other way? That’s hard to wrap my head around.
Let’s talk character names. How do you go about selecting names for characters in your book? Do the names you pick have any significance to you, or do you ever feel inspired by a name?
I’ve got it easy – 98% of my characters are real people. If it’s possible for me to dig up the names of the women who scrubbed the imperial family’s floors on July 6, 1918 (Varvara, Evdokia, Mariya, and Nadezhda) I’d rather do that than make them up. Even if it takes more time. Ok, especially if it takes more time. Procrastination often masquerades as research.
How do you plot your books, do you write it down on paper/index cards/etc, or do you write on the fly? Do you ever find that your plot changes as you write, or does it stay pretty close to how you planned it?
I’m scared of plotting! That’s why I steal my plots from history. When I have to make things up, when I can’t just hopscotch from one known event to another, I get all skittish and stupid. These are real people! What if I make something up that never happened? There was a chapter in Miss Spitfire that gave me fits for exactly that reason. All along I’d been following Annie Sullivan’s letters, and then suddenly there was a gap of over a week. I froze solid. I like to know where I’m going, and I mostly stick to that path. With the kind of stories I write, I don’t have much in the way of options.(My writing app, Scrivener, has a virtual corkboard that lets me see my layout and move things around easily when I need to restructure.)
What’s in your “Author Survival Kit”? (Pens, Caffeine, iPods, Prozac?)
Naps. And stubbornness.
Do you have a favorite place to write? Tell us about it!
Other people’s houses. I get so much more done when I’m not distracted by gazing fondly at the photos on my walls, or contemplating which of the books on my shelves are my favorites, or fending off the inexplicable urge to rearrange my sock drawer. Give me a little out-of-the way room with a door I can close, and I have no choice but to get down to business. Once I’ve activated my internet-blocker, that is. (Note: A deck with an expansive view will also do the trick.)
If you could use 3 words to describe your books, what would they be?
What are the top 3 things on your bucket list?
Amsterdam – specifically, 263 Prinsengracht
meet Queen Elizabeth II
If you could only eat one thing for the rest of your life, what would it be?
Right now? Honey. I’ve been eating it right out of the jar(s) with a spoon. Possibly this has something to do with my recent infatuation with this Beeswax perfume.
What is something you never leave home without?
Lately, a splash of the aforementioned Beeswax perfume.
What are the last 3 books you enjoyed reading?
Dark Shimmer, by Donna Jo Napoli
Tell the Wolves I’m Home, by Carol Rifka Brunt
Me Talk Pretty One Day, by David Sedaris
What are 3 words you’d use to describe yourself?
Avoids describing herself
(Were you expecting adjectives?)
Do you have a favorite hobby/pastime?
I crochet fancy, lacy shawls.
This one (see attached) I made with Lizzie Borden in mind, because she was partial to pansies. The pattern is by a designer in Malaysia, but I grafted the pansy edging from an 1891 handcraft manual. I took the project with me when I visited Fall River, in case I couldn’t fall asleep when I stayed the night in Lizzie Borden’s bedroom and needed something to work on. The place wasn’t nearly as scary as I’d braced myself for, so I didn’t crochet a single stitch there.
Do you have a hidden talent? If so, what is it?
I can shake my eyeballs. So can my agent. She’s only the second person I’ve ever met who can do that, too.
This or That?
Sunrise or Sunset?
Coffee or Tea?
Hot or Cold?
That is way more difficult than it should be.
PC or Mac?
Mac! (Although you can get Scrivener for both Mac and Windows now. I don’t want to imagine making books without Scrivener. Especially giant, multi-voice novels, or exhaustively footnoted non-fiction.)
By Land, or by sea?
By sea – if it’s a big ship and I can have a sequined butterfly cape like Bette Davis in Now, Voyager.
Half-empty or Half-full?
Either way, I need a refill.
Autumn or Spring?
Summer or Winter?
E-book or Print Book? (Preferred reading)
I feel like a traitor, but…e-book. My Kindle has so many micro-luxuries.