See What I Have Done by Sarah Schmidt – Blog Tour Review.

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About the Book

Just after 11am on 4th August 1892, the bodies of Andrew and Abby Borden are discovered. He’s found on the sitting room sofa, she upstairs on the bedroom floor, both murdered with an axe.
It is younger daughter Lizzie who is first on the scene, so it is Lizzie who the police first question, but there are others in the household with stories to tell: older sister Emma, Irish maid Bridget, the girls’ Uncle John, and a boy who knows more than anyone realises.
In a dazzlingly original and chilling reimagining of this most notorious of unsolved mysteries, Sarah Schmidt opens the door to the Borden home and leads us into its murkiest corners, where jealousies, slow-brewed rivalries and the darkest of thoughts reside.

My Review

See What I Have Done is a brilliant novel and is definitely one of the strangest ones that I have read. I had been aware of the rhyme about Lizzie Bordern but had never given any thought to its origin. Sarah Schmidt has given us an account of what could have happened in 1892 and it is a convincing one.
There are four narrators who tell us their version of events of what happened on the 3rd and 4th August. Lizzie, her older sister Emma, Bridget, their Irish maid and Benjamin an acquaintance of their uncle.
Bridget was the only one of the four who I had any liking for, she is certainly the only one who showed any sign of grief over the deaths. She had a fractious relationship with her employers, but also enjoyed some good times with Abby. Emma appeared to resent the preferential treatment that Lizzie received and tried to keep some distance from Lizzie. But like the other family members she is manipulated into letting Lizzie have her way. Benjamin is hired to do a job and is desperate for money. unlikable and untrustworthy and completely out of his depth. And then there is Lizzie. God-fearing, pigeon loving, spoilt and at times cruel. She wanted to possess Emma, have her as her puppet and is resentful that she wanted her own life away from her.
As well as the murders there is a suspicious mutton stew that made everybody who ate it ill. There is also a lot of focus on an abundance of pears which strangely managed to put me off eating them for the forseeable future. The violent deaths are not the main focus in the novel, the reader is aware of the aftermath with the description of the scene after the murders. There is an image of the murder scene, with blood splatter and bone fragments vividly described. Most of the novel assesses the different personalities and at times toxic relationships.
I feel that this novel would make a brilliant movie, it’s just amazing.

SWIHD blog tour

Tin Man by Sarah Winman – Review.

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About the Book

It begins with a painting won in a raffle: fifteen sunflowers, hung on the wall by a woman who believes that men and boys are capable of beautiful things.
And then there are two boys, Ellis and Michael,
who are inseparable.
And the boys become men,
and then Annie walks into their lives,
and it changes nothing and everything.

My Review

There is a quotation from Ellis’s mother that is mentioned a few times in this glorious book – ‘Men and boys should be capable of beautiful things.’ Dora only appears for a short time in this book but she was a character I warmed to instantly.
The novel concerns three friends Ellis, Michael and Annie. After a short but entertaining prologue, where you realise what type of woman Dora is, it moves forward in time to 1996. Ellis is in his mid-forties and struggling to move on from the death of his wife and best friend five years earlier. When he has an accident, and is off work he recalls his relationship with both of them.
I had never read any of Sarah Winman’s earlier novels so had no idea of how beautiful her writing was. Tin Man is only a short novel which I read in a day. But despite being short it has plenty of detail. There was the loss of loved ones, how they coped at the time and in later life. Ellis’s attempts to repair the relationship with his father which gave him the push to fulfil is promise to his mother. When the narrative switched to Michael it detailed how loyal he was to those he connected with. The time he gave to G. and Chris was humbling.
It was just the right length of novel, it is ram packed with emotion. If it had been longer it probably wouldn’t have had the same impact. Despite only making brief appearances Dora and Mabel showed that they wouldn’t be beaten or bullied into submission. Or turn away from somebody who needed love.
Tin Man was a novel that will stay in my thoughts for some time.