Tuesday, October 13, 2015

Review: Sweet Madness

Sweet Madness by Trisha Leaver and Lindsay Currie. Merit Press. 2015. Review copy from publisher.

The Plot: 1892. Fall River, Massachusetts.

Bridget Sullivan, 17, is the made in the household of the Borden family. Everyone thinks the family is peculiar; but as an Irish immigrant, her options for employment are few and far between.

She tries to do her job, but Bridget can't help but feeling sorry for the Borden's daughter, Lizzie. She sees firsthand the strange goings on in the Borden household. She begins to wonder, about the Bordens, about Lizzie.

Are they just strange? Or is there danger in the house?

The Good: When your name is Elizabeth; when your nickname for that name is Lizzie; when your last name begins with the letter B; you quickly become acquainted with the rhyme, "Lizzie Borden took an axe."

Perhaps that is why I have a life long fascination with true crime stories and murder mysteries.

Sweet Madness is the story of the Borden family in the summer days leading up to the murders of made famous in that children's rhyme. It's nicely researched -- and not just research into the immediate family, but also to their neighbors and extended family, and also a look at the lives of the Irish immigrants of the time.

Sweet Madness is a YA story because Bridget herself is a teen, working hard hours and trying to do right by those she works for, while at the same time, trying to have something to herself that is just hers: friends, a boyfriend, a life outside the Borden household. The real Bridget Sullivan may have been older than this fictitious one, but any questions about age are explained away by Bridget saying she lied about her age to get a job.

Any book about Lizzie Borden and Borden murders must give some hypothesis about the murders, about who did it, and why. I really liked where Leaver and Currie went, and their exploration of what it meant to be a "spinster" in that time and place, and the family dynamics, and possible insight into the characters of Lizzie, her father, and her stepmother. I won't say more than that; you need to read Sweet Madness (or talk with me about the ending in the comments.)

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© Elizabeth Burns of A Chair, A Fireplace & A Tea Cozy

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