Sunday, December 10, 2017

The Only Girl in the World

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
ISBN-13: 9780316466622

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 indoctrination.

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 train to 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 abuse.

Disclosure: My review copy was courtesy of Little, Brown and Company.

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