Sunday, April 7, 2019

The Trial of Lizzie Borden: A True Story by Cara Robertson

I'm always interested in reading about Lizzie Borden, her life, and of course the infamous murders of her father and stepmother in Fall River, Massachusetts on August 4, 1892. Not only was she found not guilty of their murders, but Lizzie and her sister Emma inherited their father's modest fortune, and she never left Fall River. Instead, she bought a large house, named it Maplecroft, and lived the life of a shunned citizen until her death in 1927.  

The Trial of Lizzie Borden is an examination of the murder, inquest, and trial that took place in 1892-93. What I like about Cara Robertson's approach is that she doesn't try to solve the mystery--did Lizzie do it? If not who did? Instead, she presents all the evidence, the trial transcripts, and all of the newspaper headlines and articles of the day. You decide, at the end, whether you believe she committed the murders-and if she did, if she acted alone, or was in cahoots with her sister. 

What I find fascinating about this book are the parallels to today's social media and how we treat people in the news, especially those accused of a crime. Poor Lizzie--newspaper reporters (both male and female) have no problem describing her as plain, unattractive, short, dumpy...you name it, they went out of their way to comment on her looks. The only compliment she got was for her thick hair. At times portrayed as cold and unfeeling, she was  also a delicate female who had unimaginable courage in the face of such a horrible accusation. The papers definitely had no problem deciding her fate before the jury did--the majority of people felt she was not guilty. Of course, they had no explanation for who could have killed Mr. and Mrs. Borden. The evidence shoddily gathered, and testimonies that changed resulted in just a botched mess. People couldn't remember who was where, which door, if any, was unlocked, where Lizzie was while her stepmother lay dead upstairs and her father was being killed in the sitting room. The stereotypes of women-especially educated, upper-middle class women- as creatures ruled by their menstrual cycles, delicate constitutions, and inability to kill in such a brutal fashion made me want to vomit. 

Seriously! A bucket of bloody clothes/cloths were in the cellar. When asked about them, Lizzie said she was on her cycle, and the detective and policemen quickly avoided looking in the freaking bucket. WTH! A bunch of bumbling idiots.   Lizzie was, to some, unjustly accused, and the crowds who came to watch the trial were very large-and often were made up of many women (the newspapers were quick to point out they weren't very attractive women, too). 

Yet after all was said and done, Fall River quickly disowned Lizzie, and she spent the rest of her days isolated in the town where she decided to stay. Some wonder why she stayed, but others think it was simply because she had no where else to go, or because she felt guilty that she'd gotten away with murder. 

It's all pretty fascinating, and this was my first real look at the trial and the circus it created. Photos of the main players, sketches from the actual trial, and detailed accounts of lawyers questioning witnesses on the stand make it all fascinating. And it leaves you to decide for yourself--did she do it?

I think she did. 

If you want to go a step further, watch the show Seeking Spirits on the Travel Channel. They just had a fascinating show about Maplecroft, and the current owner's desire to open it up to tours. Someone is not happy about it...could it be Lizzie? I'll say, it's a pretty fabulous and compelling hour of paranormal investigation. 

Rating:  4/6 for an in-depth look at the Borden murders, Lizzie Borden's trial, and the fascination people found in all of it. It may change your mind about Lizzie, or reinforce your belief in her guilt or innocence. True crime fans will enjoy this one!

Available in hardcover, ebook, and audio.

1 comment :

  1. Thank you for your excellent review! I have seen this book and want to read it and it sounds like a worthy read indeed!

    I'll have to look for Seeking Spirits on the Travel Channel. It sounds like something I would enjoy.