Review: The Little Girl on the Ice Floe: Adélaïde Bon

The Little Girl on the Ice Floe

Adélaïde Bon

Maclehose Press

Hachette Australia

RRP $35

 

Description:

“Life itself is in these pages: in this candid, poetic style there is storytelling of real quality” – LEILA SLIMANI, author of Lullaby

 

A powerful and personal account of the devastating consequences of childhood rape: a valuable voice for the #MeToo conversation.

 

Adélaïde Bon grew up in a wealthy neighborhood in Paris, a privileged child with a loving family, lots of friends and seemingly limitless opportunity lying ahead of her. But one sunny afternoon, when she was nine years old, a strange man followed her home and raped her in the stairwell of her building. She told her parents, they took her to the police, the fact of the crime was registered … and then a veil was quietly drawn over that part of her childhood, and life was supposed to go on.

 

Except, of course, it didn’t.

 

Throughout her adolescence and young adulthood, Adélaïde struggles with the aftermath of the horror of that afternoon in 1990. The lingering trauma pervades all aspects of her life: family education, friendships, relationships, even her ability to eat normally. And then one day, many years later, when she is married and has a small son, she receives a call from the police saying that they think they have finally caught the man who raped her, a man who has hidden in plain sight for decades, with many other victims ready to testify against him. The subsequent court case reveals Giovanni Costa, the stuff of nightmares and bogeymen, finally vanquished by the weight of dozens and dozens of emotional and horrifying testimonies from all the women whose lives and childhoods he stole.

 

My View:

I am ready to call this The Best Memoir of 2019!

 

This is an amazing story – Adélaïde Bon’s childhood was stolen from her by a calculating and despicable man, the dark cloud of his actions remained with her for many years, unconsciously influencing her every decision and mood. Adélaïde is a brave and resourceful young woman who has used her personal story to further the #MeToo discussion.

 

Let me share a scene that I found profound. This is a scene from one of Adélaïde’s discussion with her psychiatrist (p179-180):

Psychiatrist: “Her father may have been violent. Your assailant had carefully chosen that girl. It’s quicker, less dangerous and even less tiring to assault someone who has already experienced violence.   A victim who hasn’t had any therapy disassociates herself almost immediately, assailants know how to identify them, know they won’t put up a fight, and that they probably won’t be able to say anything afterwards.   The fact that you were doing fine, that you lived in a close knit, loving family, where there was no domestic violence or corporal punishment, meant that he had to make more of an effort to make you disassociate. That’s certainly why he went so far with you. To guarantee his impunity. “

 

Adélaïde: “So afterwards, I was easier prey than the others? Is that why I attract all the perverts for miles around?”

 

Psychiatrist: “Yes. Unfortunately, the main risk factor in being the victim of violence is to have already experienced it. But you are recovering.”

 

This explains so much of life.

 

Unbelievably brave, I do not know where Adélaïde found the strength to allow love into her life and to recover from the trauma she suffered and then to write her incredibly haunting journey into the book that is “The Little Girl on the Ice Flow”.  This is a powerful and moving read, written by an incredibly talented and strong woman. I salute you Adélaïde Bon.

 

PS the translation is pitch perfect.

Best Non Fiction Read/Listen in 2018

This was a very easy category for me to decide as two books immediately came to mind – both have left a lasting impression – their stories poignant and engaging.  In no particular order, my favourite non fiction reads/listens of 2018 are:

The Tattooist of Auschwitz by Heather Morris 
The Tattooist of Auschwitz
And Evil Has A Name:The Untold Story of the Golden State Killer Investigation by Paul Holes,Jim Clemente,Peter McDonnell 
Evil Has A Name





Review: Unnatural Causes – Dr Richard Shepherd

Unnatural Causes

Unnatural Causes

Dr Richard Shepherd

Penguin

Michael Joseph

ISBN: 9781405923545

RRP $34.99

 

Description:

A gripping memoir by one of the UK’s most prominent and experienced pathologists. His work has turned cases on their heads and put murderers behind bars. But his obsession with trying to learn what the dead are telling us began in medical school during his first autopsy. Holding the heart of the patient in his hands, he thought of his late mother, who’d died young from coronary heart disease. He wanted to help the living by learning about death. And, in the case of his criminal work, he wanted to see justice.

 

Intelligent, insightful, chilling – sometimes bizarre – and always unputdownable.

 

Unnatural Causes is the true crime book of the year from an expert who’s opening his records and sharing his casebook for the first time.

 

 

My View:

For a pathologist this author makes a wonderful wordsmith!

 

This is an intriguing narrative, a creative memoir that discusses the changes in society and attitudes to policing, medicine and science in an easy to read format that is engaging and illuminating. The discussion around autopsies, mass shootings/acts of terror and suspicious deaths are handled sensitively and considerately, the writer’s humanness shines through these sections of the book.

 

The author is open, honest and empathetic.  This is a sensitively and intelligently written book that will appeal to lovers of memoir, history, true crime and social science.

 

 

 

Review: Notes on a Nervous Planet – Matt Haig

Notes on a Nervous Planet

Notes on a Nervous Planet

Matt Haig

Allen & Unwin Australia

Cannongate

ISBN:  SBN13: 9781786892676

RRP $ 27.99

 

Description:

The world is messing with our minds.

 

Rates of stress and anxiety are rising. A fast, nervous planet is creating fast and nervous lives. We are more connected, yet feel more alone. And we are encouraged to worry about everything from world politics to our body mass index.

 

– How can we stay sane on a planet that makes us mad?

– How do we stay human in a technological world?

– How do we feel happy when we are encouraged to be anxious?

 

After experiencing years of anxiety and panic attacks, these questions became urgent matters of life and death for Matt Haig. And he began to look for the link between what he felt and the world around him.

 

Notes on a Nervous Planet is a personal and vital look at how to feel happy, human and whole in the 21st century.

 

 

My View:

This is a very raw, honest and insightful book and I commend the writer and the publishers for continuing to print narratives that open up discussions regarding mental health.

 

Haig has successfully distilled the source of a widespread epidemic of stress and nervousness; you may not have thought about it before

(Or maybe you have) how the constant barrage of information and misinformation affects our thinking and increases nervous tension. I will put up my hand and admit that I have been seriously influenced by the information/news of the world that has appeared and made itself so personal in my social media feeds.

 

Perhaps it is timely that I address this review today, September 11, an anniversary that will affect most people on this planet. Perhaps this is the first “major event” that sent waves of nervous energy around the globe? We (Australia) woke to an atrocity that became very personal; live streaming, “on the ground reporting”, fear and anxiety, despair and grief stared us in the eyes and we responded to a tragedy that felt personal to us.  And while we had a right to know about this shocking event, did we need to be so “involved” in someone else’s grief? It is a complex situation but I can’t help but feel, like Matt Haig that we are creating/being exposed to /manipulated into being a very nervous planet; too much information or mis information is almost as bad as too little in these sorts of circumstances.  Empathy is one thing…but we do not need to take on board someone else’s grief, fear, anger. You can listen, understand, sympathise with the problems around you but you do not need to “experience” the negative vibes yourself. A little distance can be good for the collective mental health of the globe.

 

Do as Matt Haig suggests, take a moment, breathe deep, walk in the sun, walk in nature…switch off the phone, the laptop for a while…accept that technology and social media is a part of our life but not the only part. Engage with the real world more often, the benefits will be life changing.

 

 

 

 

Review – Mr Ordinary Goes to Jail – Wil Patterson

Mr Ordinary Goes to Jail by Wil Paterson cover art

Mr Ordinary Goes to Jail

Wil Patterson

Finch Publishing

ISBN: 9780648226741

 

Description:

‘Wil’s honesty really had me gripped and his description of his first night in jail is something I won’t forget.’ – Emily Webb, crime author and podcast host of ‘Australian True Crime’.

 

Wil Patterson was your everyday working husband and father, trying to keep up with the latest car, house and toys for his family. Always one to make light of things, he nevertheless became increasingly desperate about how he was going to pay his bills. One day while at work at his insurance job, he came across a large cheque that was addressed to someone who shared his name. The temptation was too great and soon enough Wil found himself down at the bank. After swearing to himself, ‘never again’, it wasn’t too long before a similar situation arose and Wil could not resist.

 

Well, no crime goes unpunished and Wil was eventually caught and charged and, to his horror, sentenced to 3 years’ prison time. Mr Ordinary Goes to Jail is Wil’s account of his time in a contemporary Victorian prison, the unusual characters he met, the often hilarious and terrifying situations he found himself in, and the ways in which he comes to terms with his past and forges a new future.

 

This is for anybody who has ever wondered, ‘What is it really like inside?’ or ever speculated how they might cope if they were in the same situation. It also details the reactions of Wil’s family and friends and examines the steps Wil had to take to be accepted back into his family and society.

 

 

My View:

One upon a time, many years and career changes a go, I had a part time job – social worker for visits time at a low security prison. I was filled with the same trepidation that Will experienced for his first night at prison.  I knew no-one else at the prison, I didn’t know how any of the prison systems worked (I had assumed I would have a meeting with someone on staff before I started work but that didn’t happen). I was a little concerned. The stereotypes of prisoners in crime fiction and film and TV shows were almost enough to put me off- but I was studying and thought I wanted this experience on my resume.

 

So Sunday – visits are generally on a Sunday, I made my way to the local prison. I didn’t even know how to enter the place and consequently drove down a road I shouldn’t have and was quickly escorted to the main entrance by a patrol of guards.

 

My concerns must have been obvious – one of the guards on duty that day took me to one side and said “They (prisoners) are just ordinary people. Think of the street you live in – you don’t know anything about those people, they could have a record…treat inmates like people.” But then suggested a few sensible precautions… and with that piece of worldly advice I started work, mostly I assisted prison visitors to fill out forms and allay their fears (most hadn’t been in a prison before either and shared many of my concerns) – a calm visitor makes for a good visit day.

 

I didn’t work there very long but that’s another story.

 

So I understood a little of Wil’s trepidation. It’s about expectations. And hoping most of them don’t come true.

 

I enjoyed this honest, creative memoir /coming of age/humorous (mostly) reflection on Wil’s time in jail. He highlights some flaws in the judicial system, reflects on his own past, his crime and accepts responsibility for his actions.  He doesn’t allow himself to be defined by the actions that landed him in jail. I am pleased he has found a way to reconnect with his family and start a meaningful life.

 

 

 

 

Post Script: The Tattooist of Auschwitz – Heather Morris

The Tattooist of Auschwitz

The Tattooist of Auschwitz

Heather Morris

Echo Publishing

ISBN: 9781760403171

 

Description:

The incredible story of the Auschwitz-Birkenau tattooist and the woman he loved.

Lale Sokolov is well-dressed, a charmer, a ladies’ man. He is also a Jew. On the first transport from Slovakia to Auschwitz in 1942, Lale immediately stands out to his fellow prisoners. In the camp, he is looked up to, looked out for, and put to work in the privileged position of Tetovierer – the tattooist – to mark his fellow prisoners, forever. One of them is a young woman, Gita, who steals his heart at first glance.

His life given new purpose, Lale does his best through the struggle and suffering to use his position for good.

This story, full of beauty and hope, is based on years of interviews author Heather Morris conducted with real-life Holocaust survivor and Auschwitz- Birkenau tattooist Ludwig (Lale) Sokolov. It is heart-wrenching, illuminating, and unforgettable.

Extraordinary – moving, confronting and uplifting… a story about the extremes of human behaviour: calculated brutality alongside impulsive and selfless acts of love. I recommend it unreservedly’—GRAEME SIMSION

 

The Tattooist of Auschwitz has the quality of a dark fairy-tale. It is both simple and epic, shot through with compassion and love… Everyone should read it’—HUGH RIMINTON

 

An extraordinary story of a single and singular life and its great love’—ASHLEY HAY

 

 

My View:

How can a book be chilling yet so beautiful simultaneously? Be so horrific yet speak of never ending love on the same page? Be so confronting yet engage and enthral?

 

A book of some many contrasts, such pain and yet there is so much love on these pages, this is perhaps the best creative memoir you will read. There would not be many people who do not already know of the atrocities committed at Auschwitz, but do you know of the stories of survival, of friendship, of courage, of love, of doing “what I can to survive” (p.33)? This is a remarkable narrative told with brutal tenderness; a view through a lens of love.

 

This has already garnered a place in my best reads of 2018, I am sure it will soon be on your best read list too.

 

 

In The Mail 22nd December 2017

A busy book receiving week. I have already had a sneak peek at a couple of the titles here; Anatomy Of A Scandal captures the epitome of Entitlement, Maggie’s Recipes For Life is a new favourite,    Salt Fat Acid Heat – is a book that will be on my best of list for 2017, The Tattooist of Auschwitz is one I am really looking forward to reading, The Wanted –   Robert Crais has been on my want to read list forever, really looking forward to this one.  Fallow looks intriguing, I Love You In Five Languages is delightful,  The Hangman appeals, The Collector  – psychological thrillers are my favourite type of read,  The Secret Vineyard – set in  our very own Margaret River,  The Book of Summer – a dual timeline read. Where to begin? Any of your favourites here?

 

books 22 Dec 2017