See What I Have Done is a re-imagining of the Lizzie Borden axe murder case from the 1890’s and, naturally, this premise brought me straight in and made me want to give it a go. Plus the cover is absolutely gorgeous. I haven’t seen an edition of this book that I didn’t think had gorgeous cover art.
I really wanted to like this book. I really did. But I just can’t. I’m aware I’m likely in the minority here, but I just can’t say I liked it in all honesty. This book promised gore and terrifying moments and for it to be unsettling. It wasn’t sinister, it wasn’t scary, and it wasn’t twisted.
This is a debut novel and believe me, it shows. The writing was incredibly disjointed and was all over the place. No one particular character had a full personality carved out for them in the writing style. Another big issue was the pacing. My god was this book a slow read. I got bored at times; I actually proactively put off reading it because I simply didn’t want to carry on reading it. There were times when I re-watched YouTube videos I’ve seen multiple times just to avoid having time to read it. This was easily one of the hardest books I read in 2017 – and it has nothing to do with the story. I had no connection to the characters and genuinely didn’t care what happened and to who.
“I buried myself in strangers.”
Multiple viewpoints were utilised throughout the novel, but there were times where it was just so unnecessary. It’s a great idea, poorly executed. For example – most of the book takes place on the 3rd and 4th of August 1892, but the chapters jump in time. Yes, you read that right. They jump in time! Over the course of only 2 days! So we end up with the same scenes re-told multiple times in a disorganized time frame. It got old, dull and boring fast.
I think it was Tim Burton who said something along the lines of ‘a story needs a beginning, a middle and an end. But no necessarily in that order’ – which is 100% true, but you have to be good to be able to pull this off, and unfortunately author Sarah Schmidt just isn’t good enough.
“I’m waiting for the best moment to be my true self. Everything will be different then, you’ll see.”
There was so much repetition throughout this novel. Lizzie’s childish repetition of words in her inner monologue was fucking irritating. Now granted, Lizzie is a childish character – her actions and speech are noticeable childish and immature compared to others around her, despite her being in her 30’s. I guess Schmidt wanted this to come across as unnerving and unsettling in her writing, but it was just trite and annoying instead. As far as I can tell Lizzie Borden wasn’t an invalid, so I don’t know what compelled Schmidt to make her seem like one – unless that wasn’t intentional. Either way, it’s bad.
But the repetition in general nearly caused me to DNF – hey editors of this book, if an author is needlessly repeating the same thing over and over do your job and edit that shit out! The whole book was also overly-descriptive, especially the food. The descriptions of the food, at times, were gross for the sake of being gross – like a cheap horror film, except devoid of any self-awareness.
“The concrete steps leading up to the door were thick, primitive, a food place to crack a skull.”
All in all, this would have made an excellent draft – it sure felt like one. Mostly because it was far too long – much longer than it needed to be, did Schmidt have a word count to fill or something?!
It’s a shame that this book didn’t live up to the hype, but for once it’s because it’s a bad book, not because the publishers/readers overhyped it.
[PLEASE NOTE]: I was not paid or sponsored to write this review – all the opinions are honest and my own.