The Trial of Lizzie Borden by Cara Robertson


The Trial of Lizzie Borden by Cara Robertson
Rating:four-stars
The Trial of Lizzie Borden by Cara Robertson
Genres: True Crime

The remarkable new account of an essential piece of American mythology—the trial of Lizzie Borden—based on twenty years of research and recently unearthed evidence.

The Trial of Lizzie Borden tells the true story of one of the most sensational murder trials in American history. When Andrew and Abby Borden were brutally hacked to death in Fall River, Massachusetts, in August 1892, the arrest of the couple’s younger daughter Lizzie turned the case into international news and her trial into a spectacle unparalleled in American history. Reporters flocked to the scene. Well-known columnists took up conspicuous seats in the courtroom. The defendant was relentlessly scrutinized for signs of guilt or innocence. Everyone—rich and poor, suffragists and social conservatives, legal scholars and laypeople—had an opinion about Lizzie Borden’s guilt or innocence. Was she a cold-blooded murderess or an unjustly persecuted lady? Did she or didn’t she?

The popular fascination with the Borden murders and its central enigmatic character has endured for more than one hundred years. Immortalized in rhyme, told and retold in every conceivable genre, the murders have secured a place in the American pantheon of mythic horror, but one typically wrenched from its historical moment. In contrast, Cara Robertson explores the stories Lizzie Borden’s culture wanted and expected to hear and how those stories influenced the debate inside and outside of the courtroom. Based on transcripts of the Borden legal proceedings, contemporary newspaper accounts, unpublished local accounts, and recently unearthed letters from Lizzie herself, The Trial of Lizzie Borden offers a window onto America in the Gilded Age, showcasing its most deeply held convictions and its most troubling social anxieties.

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I received this book for free in exchange for an honest review. This post contains affiliate links, meaning I’ll receive a small commission should you purchase using those links. All opinions expressed are my own. I receive no compensation for reviews.


Like most people I knew of Lizzie Borden and the events surrounding her trial. I also had the same interest as most others. It intrigued me so selecting this book was easy.

We all know the story and the rhyme. Lizzie Borden reported her father and step-mother had been killed. Rather violently killed. We’ve read (or seen int he movies) the murders as well as the aftermath. The autopsies that were done on the dining room table. The skulls that were brought into court. Lizzie Borden was tried for both murders and acquitted.

This book is much more academic than story. There are a lot of footnotes and that is one of the reasons I gave it four stars. The footnotes are important but this honestly felt more like a book you would read for a college course or maybe someone interested in the case itself. It is all about the facts.

That was something that I enjoyed. I loved really reading more about the events of the trial and learning some things I didn’t know. I knew that the members of the home had been ill but I didn’t realize it was rather a lot. I knew they made mention of being poisoned but other accounts I had read thought it was because the meat had gone bad that they ate. Mr. Borden was known to be frugal to the point of eating meat several days in a row. All in all this was an interesting read.

About Cara Robertson

Cara Robertson is a lawyer whose writing has appeared in The Boston Globe, the Raleigh News and Observer, and the Yale Journal of Law and the Humanities. She was educated at Harvard, Oxford, and Stanford Law School. A former Supreme Court law clerk, she served as a legal adviser to the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia at The Hague and a Visiting Scholar at Stanford Law School. Her scholarship has been supported by the National Endowment for the Humanities and the National Humanities Center of which she is a Trustee. She first started researching the Lizzie Borden story as a senior at Harvard, and published her first paper on the trial in the Yale Journal of Law and the Humanities in 1997. The Trial of Lizzie Borden is her first book.

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21 Comments

  1. That was the most gruesome murders you ever heard about killing your father and stepmother.

  2. I have been reading about Lizzie Borden for years. I watched the movie with Elizabeth Montgomery and the other movie with Christine Ricci. I would love to go visit that house. I wouldn’t sleep there though.

  3. I’ve often wondered if she really did murder her parents. I hope this gives me the answer.

  4. I love true crime and especially when an old case is covered like in this book. Lizzie Borden is one of those long lasting and very interesting cases that I love. This book is definitely on my to be read list!

  5. My husband spent a night in the house. Too creepy for me, but he loves that sort of thing. He would love this book!

  6. Thanks for the awesome review! I’d been on the fence about taking the time to read this book, but I’m definitely convinced now!

  7. It’s amazing how this story continues to fascinate. Like that the book is based mostly on the facts of the case. The movie with Elizabeth Montgomery was quite compelling also.

  8. If this trial was in modern times, it would have been so much easier to know one way or another. I find it interesting it is still being written about and has a following. I would read ths though.

  9. I believe one psychic’s version of events: Lizzy Bordon did kill her parents, but she was also sexually abused by her father. Thanks for the giveaway!

  10. I’ve watched quite a few shows and such going into detail about Lizzie Borden and found them very interesting. I always thought it was a cut and dry case, probably from knowing the rhyme from when I was young. As true crime became more popular I found this case especially interesting. I definitely think this will be my next read.

  11. True crime is usually a little grisly for my taste, but I do like reading about history. I remember Lizzie Borden from the rhyme. I’ll try this book.

  12. I love true stories, and this is one that would interest me, more facts than narrative story. I didn’t know much about this, so it would be mostly all new to me!

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