Here’s middle-grade nonfiction that reads like a thriller. With murder, court battles, and sensational newspaper headlines, the story of Lizzie Borden is compulsively readable and perfect for the Common Core.
Lizzie Borden took an axe, gave her mother forty whacks. When she saw what she had done, she gave her father forty-one.
In a compelling, linear narrative, Miller takes readers along as she investigates a brutal crime: the August 4, 1892, murders of wealthy and prominent Andrew and Abby Borden. The accused? Mild-mannered and highly respected Lizzie Borden, daughter of Andrew and stepdaughter of Abby. Most of what is known about Lizzie’s arrest and subsequent trial (and acquittal) comes from sensationalized newspaper reports; as Miller sorts fact from fiction, and as a legal battle gets under way, a gripping portrait of a woman and a town emerges.
With inserts featuring period photos and newspaper clippings—and, yes, images from the murder scene—readers will devour this nonfiction book that reads like fiction.
First: In case the blurb did not make it completely clear: this book is about the trial. Of course, the first chapters are about the murder, the events leading up to it and how it was discovered etc. but the majority deals with the court proceedings. It also does not try to convince the reader that Lizzie Borden or anybody else is guilty. It just gives you the bare facts. And it does that quite well. Occasionally I had problems keeping up with the many names but I always have problems with that (and I was in a reading-slump, which meant that I took quite long breaks in between reading which also can't have helped). So it did give me a good overview over the bare facts.
However: It did not read like a thriller...or any kind of fiction. I mean trials in real life, even spectacular ones like Lizzie Borden's, usually aren't as exciting as those on TV. A lot of it is, in fact, a bit dull. Now I'm not blaming the author for not spicing things up but I do feel that the advertising blurb makes a lot of promises the book doesn't keep. I also don't feel like a read 'a gripping portrait of a woman and town'. I read a book about Lizzie Borden's trial. It did, indeed, inform me about it but nothing more.
If you have a specific interest in this case, this book is certainly a good investment. It does state the facts clearly and the author does not have an agenda. As said she neither tries to convince you of Lizzie's guilt nor her innocence. If you're more into true crime non-fiction in general, you can probably give it a pass (unless you're very much into the legal bits/court proceedings and such).
ARC provided by NetGalley