Based on the author’s personal experiences, this debut novel traces in harrowing detail the emotional odyssey of a girl who is raped at age 9.
It’s hard to say if this riveting text is a novel in the strictest sense of the word, but the power of the material makes that a minor quibble. Bon captures from the first pages the eerie distancing experienced by a victim of sexual violence. In the aftermath of the assault in the stairwell of her family’s Paris apartment building, weeping Adélaïde can only nod or shake her head as her concerned parents question her. “She's not really there anymore,” a sensation that continues in the police station where she is taken to file a criminal complaint. In the decades that follow, she tries to numb herself with binge-eating, frantic masturbation, alcohol and drugs, but the terrifying, half-submerged memories she calls “jellyfish” won’t leave her alone. Years of psychotherapy help some, but too often in the midst of sessions she finds herself “small and lost and frozen, standing in the middle of a vast white expanse, waiting. She calls this place, my little girl on the ice floe.” The sense of alienation from her own life is made palpable in the interplay throughout the novel between a third-person account of events and the occasional incursion of anguished first-person outbursts. In 2012, when Adélaïde is pregnant with her first child, she learns that a petty thief has been identified from a DNA sample as the serial rapist of dozens, probably hundreds of children over a period of 20 years. The prospect of testifying at his trial finally unlocks Adélaïde’s recollection of the worst moment in her rape, followed by a cogent neurological explanation of why it can take the survivors of violent crimes many years to remember the details of their abuse. The conclusion shows justice only partially served in a society that, in the author’s persuasive depiction, remains sexist and inclined to blame women.
Vividly conveys the survivor’s emotions of shame, rage, and fear but also offers—slowly, tentatively—hope for healing.