Tuesday, 29 September 2015

A Stolen Life, by Jaycee Dugard

4 stars

I’m more than a little tardy with this review having finished it over a week ago, partly due to being ridiculously busy but also because…how do you review a book like this? A Stolen Life isn’t going to be winning any Nobel prizes for literature, but it’s such a powerful book it seems churlish to down-rate it for any lack of literary flourishes.

When she was just 11 years old, Jaycee Dugard was abducted while walking to school. For the next 18 years, she was held captive in the ‘secret backyard’ of Phillip Garrido for his sexual gratification, birthing two daughters by the time she was 17 years old. Aided and abetted by his equally sick and twisted wife, Nancy (who not only knew that her husband was raping a child in their back yard but who also scouted girls for him), Garrido would somehow manage to avoid the scrutiny of the parole officers and other members of authority (he had previously been convicted of sexually assaulting a 14 year old) who not only managed to never take more than a quick peek around his property but also never thought to question the word of a convicted sex offender about who the fuck the little girls living at his house were (it seems I still haven't calmed down a week after reading this). It would eventually take him actually taking Jaycee and her two children into a parole office with him for the authorities to realise the identities of the girls and reunite Jaycee with her family.

Told in Jaycee’s own words, her story is not only harrowing and heartbreaking but also astonishing for the quiet strength that enabled her to not only survive her 18 year ordeal but to emerge still hopeful for her future and that of her children. Having had to educate herself in the years of her captivity, Jaycee has a very simple writing style which really places you in the shoes of her 11 year old self, with the jumbled timeline and interjections recreating her own childish confusion at what was and did happen to her and enabling the reader to understand how her dependency on Garrido for everything could make her afraid of his control being taken away.

While not an easy book to read, A Stolen Life is a very powerful one, and one I don't think I’ll ever forget.

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