23 Apr 2016

Review: Sweet Madness by Trisha Leaver & Lindsay Currie

Sweet Madness by Trisha Leaver & Lindsay Currie
Hardcover, 223 pages
Published September 15th 2015 by Merit Press (first published August 7th 2015)
ISBN: 9781440588945

Seventeen-year-old Bridget Sullivan is alone in Fall River, a city that sees Irish immigrants as nothing more than a drunken drain on society. To make matters worse, she's taken employment with the city’s most peculiar and gossip-laden family—the Bordens. But Bridget can’t afford to be picky—the pay surpasses any other job Bridget could ever secure and she desperately needs the money to buy her little sister, Cara, passage to the states. It doesn’t hurt that the job location is also close to her beau, Liam. As she enters the disturbing inner workings of the Borden household, Bridget clings to these advantages.
However, what seemed like a straightforward situation soon turns into one that is untenable. Of course Bridget has heard the gossip around town about the Bordens, but what she encounters is far more unsettling. The erratic, paranoid behavior of Mr. Borden, the fearful silence of his wife, and worse still…the nightly whisperings Bridget hears that seem to come from the walls themselves.
The unexpected bright spot of the position is that Lizzie Borden is so friendly. At first, Bridget is surprised at how Lizzie seems to look out for her, how she takes a strong interest in Bridget’s life. Over time, a friendship grows between them. But when Mr. Borden’s behavior goes from paranoid to cruel, and the eerie occurrences in the house seem to be building momentum, Bridget makes the tough decision that she must leave the house—even if it means leaving behind Lizzie, her closest friend, alone with the madness. Something she swore she would not do.
But when Bridget makes a horrifying discovery in the home, all that she thought she knew about the Bordens is called into question…including if Lizzie is dangerous. And the choice she must make about Lizzie’s character could mean Bridget’s life or death.
SWEET MADNESS is a retelling of the infamous Borden murders from the point of view of Lizzie’s Irish maid, Bridget Sullivan.

Book Review
The novel is based on a true story. A young woman – Lizzie Borden – single and still living under the same roof as her father and step-mother, allegedly kills the two on a hot August day in 1892. The story is set in Fall River, Massachusetts prior to the event which does not get centre stage. Hence, it is not the killing as such that is the main theme of the novel but the imagined relationship Lizzie could have had with the Irish house maid Bridget Sullivan. The story is told from the maid’s point of view and the author imagines her as being the only friend Lizzie can truly confide in. In real life, Lizzie Borden was acquitted of the murder yet the legend and rumours have lasted for more than 100 years. To have chosen the outsider – a poor maid whose livelihood depends on the job and who is planning to be reunited with her poorly younger sister, adds to the tension and suspense of the story. The reader empathizes not only with the maid but through her with Lizzie who is at the mercy of a cruel penny-pinching father and helpless step-mother herself.
It is an interesting historical novel that explores the boundaries between classes, the difficulty of friendship and how people’s loyalties can be impinged by their past and the circumstances they live in.

Review by mother and daughter duo, Helene & Shona Tiernan.
Both are avid readers of fiction, enjoying a wide range of topics. Helene is a former journalist, a trained yoga teacher and also enjoys putting pen to paper herself. Her daughter Shona is a 13-year-old teenager who sings, plays the violin, drums and is passionate about tap dancing and her little brother. Both love diving into different worlds through the eyes of an author. Originally from Belgium, they currently live in Portugal with their family.

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