Book Review: The Secrets of Lizzie Borden

25476259Title: The Secrets of Lizzie Borden

Author: Brandy Purdy

Genre: Historical Fiction

Age Group: Adult (18+)

Rating: 2 stars


Review copy provided by the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

In her enthralling, richly imagined new novel, Brandy Purdy, author of The Ripper’s Wife, creates a compelling portrait of the real, complex woman behind an unthinkable crime. Lizzie Borden should be one of the most fortunate young women in Fall River, Massachusetts. Her wealthy father could easily afford to provide his daughters with fashionable clothes, travel, and a rich, cultured life. Instead, haunted by the ghost of childhood poverty, he forces Lizzie and her sister, Emma, to live frugally, denying them the simplest modern conveniences. Suitors and socializing are discouraged, as her father views all gentleman callers as fortune hunters. Lonely and deeply unhappy, Lizzie stifles her frustration, dreaming of the freedom that will come with her eventual inheritance. But soon, even that chance of future independence seems about to be ripped away. And on a stifling August day in 1892, Lizzie’s long-simmering anger finally explodes… Vividly written and thought-provoking, The Secrets of Lizzie Borden explores the fascinating events behind a crime that continues to grip the public imagination—a story of how thwarted desires and desperate rage could turn a dutiful daughter into a notorious killer.

The Secrets of Lizzie Borden is one of dozens of books based on Lizzie Borden, the infamous axe murderess (or alleged axe murderess) who supposedly snapped one day and killed her stepmother and father in a most gruesome fashion. Lizzie was eventually acquitted of the crime by a jury. The story is almost as famous as the history of Jack the Ripper, so I’m sure you’ve all heard the tale.

In this book, the author dives into Lizzie’s life (fictional, of course) and tries to establish a different kind of Lizzie, one who travelled the world, felt locked in a cage when at home, had a frugal father who denied her frivolities like new dresses and such, had a terrible love life, and eventually murdered her stepmother and father.

The story is an okay one, although it drags on a bit in the middle after the supposed climax (the murders) has happened, and then you still have over a hundred pages to go. It makes sense, because Lizzie’s life naturally didn’t end up with the murder of her parents, she lived on for many years after that. But as a reader, you’re most interested in the build up toward the murder – what made her do it? what were her thoughts? – and everything after that isn’t all that interesting anymore.

The writing was all right, although a bit quaint, a bit flowery and wordy. The plot was pretty decent too. We see Lizzie go on a trip to Europe, we see her falling in love and then being denied said love, and so on.

My major problem with the book, however, is Lizzie.

Here, Lizzie is portrayed as a child. She may be thirty or forty years old during some chapters, but she’s still portrayed as a child, looking for love, doing everything she can to find it. She acts very childish when she doesn’t get what she want, she’s so naive that at times I wanted to slap her and basically she holds nothing of the allure, charm, or just general complexity you’d expect from Lizzie Borden – or just from about any person.

Lizzie annoyed me so much that I couldn’t enjoy the book because of that. She didn’t seem realistic at all, more like a child stuck in an adult’s body.


  1. Great review! Sorry to hear that you didn’t love this one.

  2. Aw, too bad it was a let down. Lizzie’s character sounds dreadful, even without the ax murderer thing!

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