March 7, 2012
I'm sorry for, again, the lack of updates and for neglecting to approve comments. I'm having a hard time keeping this blog up, it's quite a lot of work and I've still been very, very busy with work & my business. But I'm trying to make a change – to make the time to read a bit more and am slowly getting back into that I hope that my drive to review will follow suit. Here's a review of Lucky. I've read it at the end of 2011.
First published in: 2002
This edition: Picador, 2002
Genre: non-fiction, memoir
Cover photography by Paola de Grenet
I've read and reviewed both of Sebold's fiction works; both books I still consider among my favorite novels. Yet something, for the longest time, kept me from reading her other book, her debut: Lucky.
It's the subject: Lucky is a non-fiction account of Sebold's rape back when she was a freshman in college. But more than that, it was sensing – from knowing Sebold's bold writing style – that she would be brutally honest and that she would not hold back. It would be a tough book to read. I was probably scared. Rape is a nightmare. For too many women (and also, men), it is a reality. Sebold's book is all too real and very confrontational.
So I admit, I had trouble picking it up and starting it in the first place. But once I did, once I had gotten through the first pages (in which the rape is described, in detail), I could not put the book down anymore. I was committed to seeing this one through.
I greatly admire Sebold as an author and I admire her even more as a woman. To say I admire her for having survived something that was done to her, that's not what she wants from anyone. Sebold doesn't want anyone's pity, she doesn't want to be looked upon as a victim, to be defined by having been raped. That's not why she wrote this book. I think she wrote it as a way to understand what happened, to get it out of her system. To let go. I have to respect that – Sebold commands respect most of all. I commend her for writing this invaluable, important book.
While generally, logically, she had a very, very hard time with it all – mostly because she was treated differently after the rape; everyone knew she was That Rape Victim and there was a stigma, now – she remained strong and remained true to herself even though everyone else thought she'd changed. Yes, she did. But she didn't break down (which is what was almost expected of her, and I as a reader would have understood if she had); instead she hardened and wanted to fight to bring her rapist to justice. Sebold thus addresses how everyone else also changed because of Alice's rape.
Alice Sebold discloses directly (but never very emotionally – like I said, she hardened) the aftermath: the effect the rape had on her life (a consequence was drug addiction) and how she coped. She seems detached at first, but that's what I mean by honesty. Sebold describes herself as she really was at that time instead of analyzing well after the fact her various feelings and emotions, which she did not yet understand right after the rape. The way Sebold writes her story does not provide us with every bit of insight in the emotional department, but it rings more true.
Sebold is a strong person, that to me is very clear. But she's also very real and honest. She's not leaving anything out to spare us. A large portion of the book deals with the trial against the rapist and the strain that puts on a rape victim. Having to constantly repeat details and events from that day. Being put on the stand and having everything dissected, the defense insinuating fault with the victim at every turn.
Despite understanding that Sebold didn't seek pity when writing her story, that doesn't mean that I didn't feel anything. The account of her rape was terrifying. Women do not want to imagine rape. I skip rape scenes when they appear in movies. I love the show Criminal Minds, but the show's rape scenes horrify me, and they're not even all that graphic. The idea of it happening to anyone, my adrenaline begins to rush immediately. It does something to a woman, imagining this. I think at moments like these women feel strong empathy for their gender. And that's why I felt I had to read this. It could happen to any one of us. That's mostly what I felt when I read those first 20 pages. A strong sense of connectedness to women in general, a solidarity. And I felt the drive to fight when I finished the book.
© Karin E. Lips
2008-2011 and beyond.