"I can only tell you this, for whatever it is worth to you, all those old adages about money embroidered on so many samplers are absolutely true; it cannot buy happiness and it is the root of all evil."
This, a quote from Lizzie Borden in the book, entirely sums up the story of Lizzie, at least as told in this book. This fictional account of Lizzie and the murders of her parents is so excellently told, it reads like it was written by Lizzie herself. I am thoroughly impressed with how engaging it is and the amazing polarity of the character of Lizzie. Purdy has outdone herself.
As one long fascinated with the story of Lizzie Borden, I, like many others, have often speculated on whether she truly committed the murders (I have always leaned toward yes) and if she did, what was her motivation. Unlike the many stories I've watched about Borden in the television medium, this telling fully develops Lizzie as a person. We learn of her inner fears and wants. We learn of a life with very little love from a miserly father and a grave and cold sister. And not only was her father a miser, but he was also condescending and always quick to inform Lizzie of her naivety and lack of worth in the eyes of others, except as a source of getting to his wealth. Lizzie was a woman so desperate for love and affection that trying to grasp it in any way she could was what ultimately led her to the rash decision and terrible acts that would change her life forever.
Going back to the quote above, Lizzie thought that she would be free...and she was. She was free to spend money and live the way she always wanted. And yet, although she was acquitted of the murders, no one ever truly believed she didn't do it and that stain would follow her the rest of her days. She could never feel truly loved because someone always seemed to have ulterior motives of getting close to her to get her story, or for notoriety. Sadly, the one time she had a chance at happiness was dashed because of her notorious past. She was destined to spend the rest of her life alone.
That Lizzie was a bisexual woman is neither here nor there. There are plenty of people in history that I'm sure were the same. In Lizzie's case, instead of being liberated by loving who she wanted, because of the norms of the time, and her upbringing to feel shame, she could never truly be happy, or feel good about herself and how she felt toward other women. Suppressed sexuality can lead to volatile feelings and this may be another clue to the motivations of her committing the murders.
We will never truly know if she did it or not. Since she was acquitted by a court of law, one wants to believe that perhaps she was innocent. However, in my mind, I must go along with the portrayal in this book, which coincides with what I've always believed. Do I think what Lizzie did was wrong? Yes, I do. Do I feel she was not punished properly? Yes, I do. Lizzie received a far worse punishment than if she would have been sentenced to hang. She sentenced herself to a life of loneliness and self-loathing. To me, that was punishment enough.
The Secrets of Lizzie Borden really is a must read. I can't even begin to express how much I enjoyed this book. I highly recommend it.
About the book
The Secrets of Lizzie Borden
by Brandy Purdy
Publication Date: January 26, 2016
eBook & Print; 384 Pages
Genre: Historical Fiction
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.
Brandy Purdy (Emily Purdy in the UK) is the author of the historical novels THE CONFESSION OF PIERS GAVESTON, THE BOLEYN WIFE (THE TUDOR WIFE), THE TUDOR THRONE (MARY & ELIZABETH), THE QUEEN’S PLEASURE (A COURT AFFAIR), THE QUEEN’S RIVALS (THE FALLEN QUEEN), THE BOLEYN BRIDE, and THE RIPPER’S WIFE. An ardent book lover since early childhood, she first became interested in history at the age of nine or ten years old when she read a book of ghost stories which contained a chapter about Anne Boleyn haunting the Tower of London. Visit her website at www.brandypurdy.com, you can also follow her on Facebook as Brandy Purdy aka Emily Purdy.