The Little Girl on the Ice Floe
“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.
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.