Monday, July 18, 2016

Book of the Week: The Borden Murders

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

by Sarah Miller
Published by Schwartz & Wade, 2016
288 pages
ISBN: 978-0-553-49808-0
Age 12 and older

This arresting work doesn’t answer the question of whether Lizzie Borden killed her father and stepmother in Fall River, Massachusetts, in 1892, because there isn’t enough factual information to support a definitive response. Instead, it lays out the evidence and arguments used by both Lizzie’s prosecutors and her defense team. Drawing on court transcripts from the Borden trial and other primary and secondary source material, Miller’s chronological account begins with Lizzie’s discovery of her father’s body and moves forward in gripping detail from the first hours, when it seems suspicion first fell on Lizzie; through subsequent days, weeks and months; through the trial and the jury’s eventual verdict of not guilty. It also offers a fascinating look at the role the media played in public perceptions and opinions, which shifted throughout events and were influenced by class and gender. Steps and missteps on the part of Lizzie, witnesses, police and others makes for gripping reading but also humanizes all involved. Lizzie spent the rest of her life in Fall River, neither a recluse nor attention monger, living with the sister who stood by her until a sudden estrangement later in their lives. Did she or didn’t she? The court of public opinion remains undecided. Two sections of black-and-white photographs (none gruesome), and detailed source notes and resources round out a book that invites and demands spirited discussion. ©2016 Cooperative Children’s Book Center

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