The Trial of Lizzie Borden

The Trial of Lizzie Borden by Cara Robertson

The Trial of Lizzie Borden tells the true story of one of the most sensational murder trials in American history. When Andrew and Abby Borden were brutally hacked to death in Fall River, Massachusetts, in August 1892, the arrest of the couple’s younger daughter Lizzie turned the case into international news and her trial into a spectacle unparalleled in American history. Reporters flocked to the scene. Well-known columnists took up conspicuous seats in the courtroom. The defendant was relentlessly scrutinized for signs of guilt or innocence. Everyone—rich and poor, suffragists and social conservatives, legal scholars and laypeople—had an opinion about Lizzie Borden’s guilt or innocence. Was she a cold-blooded murderess or an unjustly persecuted lady? Did she or didn’t she?

The popular fascination with the Borden murders and its central enigmatic character has endured for more than one hundred years. Immortalized in rhyme, told and retold in every conceivable genre, the murders have secured a place in the American pantheon of mythic horror, but one typically wrenched from its historical moment. In contrast, Cara Robertson explores the stories Lizzie Borden’s culture wanted and expected to hear and how those stories influenced the debate inside and outside of the courtroom. Based on transcripts of the Borden legal proceedings, contemporary newspaper accounts, unpublished local accounts, and recently unearthed letters from Lizzie herself, The Trial of Lizzie Borden offers a window onto America in the Gilded Age, showcasing its most deeply held convictions and its most troubling social anxieties.

Author: Cara Robertson | Publisher: Simon & Schuster

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Rating: 4/5

Y’all. This mystery is WILD. I’m not usually big on true crime, but I’m so glad I read this one. Cara Robertson has spent her life — literally, this started as a thesis paper — researching Lizzie Borden’s story. She’s able to paint a rich history of what we know about the crime, and about the trial.

If you aren’t aware, Lizzie Borden lived in the 1890s with her father and stepmother. One day, they were hacked to death with an ax. Literally nobody except Lizzie could have done this — and that was the prosecution’s entire case. Problem is, there’s also no way she could have done this. There is zero physical evidence, including the fact that nobody ever saw any blood on her. WILD.

The book reads like hard nonfiction, kind of dry except for its subject matter. But it doesn’t matter, because you’ll be so hungry for more details and to know what happened next. I also really appreciated the fact that there were photographs printed throughout the book. They added great context and broke up the pages a bit, which was nice.

I can’t say that this book solved the mystery (because the mystery remains unsolved), but it has certainly given me plenty to spew at people at parties. (Yes, I obviously go to very riveting parties.)

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