Cristina Reads Too Much: The Trial of Lizzie Borden by Cara Robertson

Getting around to reading a book (other than a textbook) can be tough in college, we know this.  When you’re cramming in between classes, Her Campus Lasell’s got you covered.  

Introducing Cristina Reads Too Much, a weekly segment where we break down and spill the tea about the best books RN and give our honest reviews and ratings. 

The Rundown:

This true crime book breaks down the infamous Lizzie Borden murder trial.  The story begins on August 4th, 1892 when Lizzie Borden’s father, Andrew Borden, and stepmother, Abby Borden, are found bludgeoned to death in their Fall River, Massachusetts, home.  Lizzie was at home at the time of the murders but claims that she was too preoccupied to notice anything occurring. Nonetheless, she becomes the police’s prime suspect and is arrested shortly after the murders.  The book then jumps ahead nearly a year, to Lizzie Borden’s trial in June 1893 in New Bedford, Massachusetts. Tensions rise and a media frenzy begins as the jury is tasked with deciding Lizzie Borden’s fate. Both the prosecution and the defense present a compelling case for her guilt and innocence in the murder of her father and stepmother.  The prosecution argues that Lizzie was the only person with a window of opportunity to commit the murders on that day and that she was motivated by the issues she had with her stepmother. The defense claims that the evidence presented as part of the trial proves that she couldn’t have possibly done it--the lack of blood on her clothes, the seemingly “masculine” wounds in her parents’ skulls, her good relationship with her father.  The case not only attracts the attention of journalists from local and national papers but thousands of people from the region. The jury ultimately finds Lizzie Borden not guilty of the murders of Andrew and Abby Borden, but the truth is still widely debated more than a century after the trial.

My Thoughts:

Informative, captivating, and thought-provoking, The Trial of Lizzie Borden provides a detailed account of the notorious murder case while still leaving the “did she or didn’t she?” question up in the air.  Having grown up in Massachusetts, the Lizzie Borden case is something of local history to me, but I never really held a firm stance on her guilt. Surprisingly, this book led me to sympathize with Lizzie and consider that she’s probably innocent.  Robertson discusses the events in chronological order, making the book relatively easy to follow; however, there are so many names mentioned that I lost track of who was who and why they were significant. The “persons of interest” list at the front certainly helped, but the fact that I had to reference it multiple times was a little annoying.  I’d love to see this story novelized and told from Lizzie’s point of view as Elizabeth Cobbs did with Alexander and Eliza Hamilton’s story in The Hamilton Affair (read my review of it here), though I suppose that would entail taking a definitive stance on her guilt or innocence.  If you’re interested in learning more about the Lizzie Borden case, or like true crime in general, you’ll enjoy The Trial of Lizzie Borden.

(my verdict: I want to believe that Lizzie is innocent, but part of me knows that there’s no evidence that she absolutely didn’t do it.  So basically I’m rather conflicted).

My rating:

4.5 out of 5 stars

Favorite Quote:

“‘There are in it all the elements which make such an event worth reading about, since, in the first place, it was a mysterious crime in a class of society where such deeds are not only foreign but usually wildly impossible...The evidence was wholly circumstantial.  The perpetrator of the double murder was protected by a series of chances which might not happen again in a thousand years. And, finally, the case attracted national attention, and divided public opinion, as no criminal prosecution has done since, nor, to the best of my belief, as any murder trial in the United States had ever done before.’”