A&E: ‘The Borden Murders: Lizzie Borden & the Trial of the Century’ is best served with a grain of salt

“Lizzie Borden took an axe, gave her mother forty whacks. When she saw what she had done, she gave her father forty one.” This haunting tune was sung in the late 19th century to early 20th century by children skipping rope.

Children are, unfortunately, not known for their nuance, and the book “The Borden Murders: Lizzie Borden & the Trial of the Century” by Sarah Miller, while interesting, also lacks nuance. This work of nonfiction explores the centuries-old double homicide of Andrew Borden, his second wife Abby, and the trial that followed.

Andrew’s youngest daughter, Lizabeth Borden, stands accused of murdering her father and stepmother, and Miller poses the question: did she do it?

Initially, the book shows a clear bias toward Lizzie’s innocence, which fades in and out sporadically. It is written in third person but follows Lizzie’s actions from discovering the body onward. There are facts about the town and layout of the house and legal matters in boxes sprinkled throughout the book. These details aim to aid the reader by providing a more nuanced perspective but are often worded in favor of Lizzie’s innocence, or feel slapdash, as if they were only put there to meet a word count.

If the reader is not swept up in the sensation of Victorian homicide, then they quickly realize that no matter the quantity and quality of sources this book provides, it can not be entirely “true” as its genre advertises. It follows Lizzie’s movements far too closely, even alluding to her thoughts, which is not adequately addressed in the research section at the end of the book.

Another thing that is not addressed is that every behavioral trait that initially turned suspicion onto Lizzie are also common traits of people assigned female at birth with Autism Spectrum Disorder. It is impossible to psychoanalyze a person who has been dead for nearly 100 years, but people with ASD may sympathize with her candidness, abnormal reactions to sensory stimulus, pain and disregard of social expectations.

A person does not need to be on the spectrum to sympathize with Lizzie, however, and Miller does an extraordinary job of humanizing her. Be it accurate or not, Lizze does not feel like a piece of a long-gone court proceeding or monster created by a 19th-century newspaper.

If nothing else, the book is a sensational and entertaining read for people who enjoy true crime, or are willing to overlook flexibility in the technical tone of nonfiction. For the latter, it is a nice shallow pool to wade in, but it is not the ocean of objective facts expected of nonfiction.