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The Borden Murders: Lizzie Borden and the Trial of the Century

Random/Schwartz & Wade. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9780553498080.
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Gr 7 Up—In 1892, Lizzie Borden, a well-to-do young woman from Fall River, MA, went on trial for the brutal murder of her father and stepmother. Miller lays out the facts of the case in painstaking detail, chapter by chapter. Investigating newspaper reports and affidavits and providing historical context for modern readers, Miller crafts a superbly researched work that reads like a thriller and asks probing questions about media bias, sexism, and what lurks in the darkest recesses of the human heart.
Miller relates both the immediate events leading up to the murders of Andrew and Abby Borden and the legal proceedings against their daughter, Lizzie Andrews Borden. By giving a play-by-play commentary of this whole affair, Miller is able to also examine various swaths of late-nineteenth-century American social, cultural, and political history. Despite reading like a novel, The Borden Murders nevertheless scrupulously hews to the facts. Bib., ind.
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. jonathan hunt

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