A disturbing, engrossing memoir of a bizarre, highly abusive childhood.
Psychotherapist Julien makes her literary debut with a gripping chronicle of growing up imprisoned and tormented by her parents. Isolated on a walled estate not far from Dunkirk, Julien was raised to become a “superior being,” destined to “control the weak-minded and bring about the great regeneration of the universe.” Her father, a paranoid, narcissistic conspiracy theorist, “a Grand Master of Freemasonry and a great knight of a secret order,” had adopted and then married Julien’s mother, who assisted in the demanding, cruel regimen that he designed to shape their daughter’s body and mind. They locked her in a dank, rat-infested cellar, forbidding her to move (her mother sewed bells in her sweater to monitor disobedience). They also attempted to quash any signs of love or compassion; Julien had to cage her gentle dog every day, and when her beloved horse died, they made her dig a hole to bury it. Her father bought the horse not as a pet for Julien but to make sure she learned to ride: “just like swimming, riding will be very useful if I need to escape” persecution and also “to be able to get a job with a circus in case I have to hide or go undercover at some point.” They forced her to bathe in their own dirty bathwater: “an honor,” her father said, that “allows you to benefit from my energies when they enter your body.” They refused to summon a doctor when she was ill, and they ignored her being sexually abused by their lecherous handyman. Finally, when Julien was an adolescent, a kind, observant music teacher assessed the situation and contrived to give her lessons at his own studio; he soon hired her to work for him part-time and introduced her to a young man who married her. Although she escaped physically, Julien admits, “being outside wasn’t enough to make me free.” Years of therapy led her to become a therapist herself.
A startling testament of survival.