PARALLEL LIVES by Michael Martins
Kirkus Star


A Social History of Lizzie A. Borden and Her Fall River
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The authors (The Commonwealth of Massachusetts Vs. Lizzie A. Borden, 1994) return with a riveting history of the flourishing small town of Fall River, Mass., and its most infamous resident, Lizzie Borden.

It’s been more than eight decades since the death of Lizzie Borden, but interest in the gruesome ax murders that made her famous lives on. This book isn’t intended as a commentary on those murders of August 4, 1892, or speculation about her guilt or innocence; instead, it provides insight into Lizzie Borden, the woman, the city in which she spent most of her life and the society that would later judge her. According to documents, young Lizzie’s implication in her parents’ murders wasn’t based on evidence but merely suggestion and “village gossip.” Varying points of view on the family’s relations—especially between Lizzie and her stepmother—were recorded, but most townspeople distorted the Borden’s evidently normal familial disagreements into a sinister light, spurred on by the macabre events that transpired. The book, culled from exhaustive research by the curators of the Fall River Historical Society, offers an alternate perspective to the previously known particulars. The authors share unprecedented access to never-before-seen documents, memorabilia and other information. The result is an ambitious tome featuring a plethora of information and replete with beautiful photographs. Though the narrative and history are nonlinear, the telling flows seamlessly. The fateful events of August 4, 1892, are discussed early on, but references are peppered throughout, with additional perspective and data. Fall River itself is a compelling character: Its main claim to fame may be Lizzie Borden, but the town—one of the first to open a free library in the United States, in 1860—also persevered through two devastating fires, the Civil War, Lincoln’s assassination and multiple instances of embezzlement. Every page may not be dedicated to the Borden family, but the lush history of the town and its many residents somehow connect to the family and its notorious daughter.

A must-have for history buffs.

Pub Date: Nov. 22nd, 2011
ISBN: 978-0964124813
Page count: 1138pp
Publisher: Fall River Historical Society
Program: Kirkus Indie
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15th, 2012


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