LIZZIE BORDEN by Elizabeth Engstrom


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As she did in the horror tales of When Darkness Loves Us (1984), Engstrom again exhibits a bent toward the shivery improbable--though her rather stiff-kneed and openfaced style states horror more than tingles with it. Still, Engstrom's Bordens--in outline at least--are ripe for a swinging axe; and Lizzie, set spinning by lesbian affairs and traumatic discoveries, is the likely one to swing it. In the dark Fall River house--redolent of heavy food and chamber pots and hung about with keys for each room--live the miserable Bordens. There's Andrew, one of the meanest landlords in Fall River; his second wife, fat, sad Abby, who had wanted to mother Andrew's two daughters and is now unloved by all; Emma, now 41; and 31-year-old Lizzie, who adores her father but also hates him for his stinginess, their shabby living, her lack of freedom. Hate and wretchedness ricochet off one another--until the Big Payoff. Emma, who goes off on benders from time to time (known only to Lizzie), is a major hater, but Lizzie, straining to leave the "frozen igloo" of home (particularly after tasting the pleasures of sex and also gracious living at the homes of two very different women), has read a helpful book, sent by a friend, that carried a thrilling message: "within each individual reside many others. . ." Other Lizzies do emerge, and an Angry Self is on the march. A flawed but diverting entry in the Why Did Lizzie Do It? stakes--a complex concept that needs subtler treatment.

Pub Date: Jan. 17th, 1990
ISBN: 312-93204-9
Publisher: St. Martin's
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