The Only Girl in the World: A Memoir by Maude Julien
Adriana Hunter (Translator)
Little, Brown and Company: 12/12/17
eBook review copy; 288 pages
The Only Girl in the World by Maude Julien is a highly recommended memoir about a woman's abusive childhood - and her escape.
This is not an easy memoir to read because of the abuse and the family
situation is so bizarre. Maude Julien's parents were fanatics and the
torture she experienced under their supervision was supposedly done to
strengthen her. Her father got her mother at around age 6 from her
parents, promising to educate her. He then raised and groomed her mother
to eventually be his wife and help him raise a superior being. Maude
was born from this odd union in 1957.
Her father was many things. He had a
megalomaniac personality. He was
paranoid, narcissistic, cruel, abusive, and a conspiracy theorist. He
believed he was "a Grand
Master of Freemasonry and a great knight of a secret order." He
designed the education and cruel tasks Maude had to do and his wife
helped him carry his plans out. Their duty, mother and daughter, was to
do his bidding. He was controlling and a master of psychological
Maude is never shown any love or tenderness. The abusive things Maude
was forced to do in order to strengthen her character are painful to
read about. She has to sit still in a dark rat-infested cellar
overnight. She had to hold on to an electric fence without flinching.
She had to bathe in cold, dirty bath water. The amount of sleep she had
was strictly limited. The animals, the only ones who gave Maude
affection and that she loved, were all abused. Both Maude and her horse
were forced to drink alcohol. Maude was forced to eat food in huge
chunks and only given stale bread to eat. They ignored her being
sexually abused by
their handyman. Maude finally escapes when she is allowed to take a
Dunkirk to study music and she realizes she can escape.
The recounting of the abuse is relentless and matter-of-fact as she
recounts her daily existence and the abuse she was experiencing at the
hands of her parents, although it was her father who was in charge.
There isn't a lot of reflection or analysis by Maude as she relates what
she had to endure and at times it feels just too unflinching in the
recounting of the horror. Although it might have been nice to read about
her childhood from the viewpoint of the adult and psychotherapist that
she is today, it is at least gratifying to know that she did escape. It
is also satisfying to know that an outsider, a music teacher, assessed
what was going on and put a plan into action that would eventually help
Maude escape her insane, controlling father. While this is a dark story
that she needed to tell, it is not really inspirational, except in the
fact that she does survive and overcomes her abusive background.
Be forewarned that there are triggers in this book for those who have
experienced physical or sexual abuse and self-harming. There is animal
My review copy was courtesy of Little, Brown and Company.