A terrifying and telling memoir, but one that leave unanswered questions.

The Blood on my Hands

A harrowing memoir of domestic violence and mental illness in 1960s and ’70s Australia.

O’Leary writes that, beginning when she was a toddler, she suffered abuse at the hands of her late father. She recalls him tossing her into the air, playful and fatherly, and then suddenly dropping his arms to his sides and letting her hit the ground. When she was 4, she writes, she first glimpsed one of her father’s multiple personalities: while playing at her paternal grandmother’s house, she saw a “grotesque figure” in black boots, a grey wig, and pink lipstick. The person, who turned out to be her father in disguise, looked like her grandmother, she says, but threatened to cut her with a razor. The following year, O’Leary writes, she watched her father brutally and inexplicably murder three people. The domestic violence then escalated, according to O’Leary, who says that her father chloroformed her, buried her, tied her up, and sexually abused her; her favorite pets died horrible deaths, and her toys were lost or destroyed. Her father, she says, killed again, several times, with her as a witness; she endured this in order to protect her mother and three brothers, she says, whom her father regularly threatened to kill. The family lived in the Australian bush with no phone and little recourse, as the police refused to get involved in domestic cases. The sections of the book portraying the abuse are powerful. In them, O’Leary shows a child who couldn’t make sense of the strange figures she saw, the handkerchief that made her black out, or a trench where she was imprisoned. The confusion, uncertainty, and sickening foreboding ring true and offer vital insights into the experience of abuse, including the fact that victims had few options, especially in the 1960s. Other sections, however, including descriptions of events well before the author’s birth, are written like a novel, providing precise details and dialogue as well as the thoughts in the characters’ heads. Although the book is billed as an autobiography, O’Leary reveals little about her adult life, such as how her childhood experience affected her relationships with her own five children or how it feels to finally disclose the perpetrator of so many unresolved murders.

A terrifying and telling memoir, but one that leave unanswered questions.

Pub Date: Feb. 3, 2016

ISBN: 978-1-5196-9587-1

Page Count: 258

Publisher: CreateSpace

Review Posted Online: March 18, 2016

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If the authors are serious, this is a silly, distasteful book. If they are not, it’s a brilliant satire.


The authors have created a sort of anti-Book of Virtues in this encyclopedic compendium of the ways and means of power.

Everyone wants power and everyone is in a constant duplicitous game to gain more power at the expense of others, according to Greene, a screenwriter and former editor at Esquire (Elffers, a book packager, designed the volume, with its attractive marginalia). We live today as courtiers once did in royal courts: we must appear civil while attempting to crush all those around us. This power game can be played well or poorly, and in these 48 laws culled from the history and wisdom of the world’s greatest power players are the rules that must be followed to win. These laws boil down to being as ruthless, selfish, manipulative, and deceitful as possible. Each law, however, gets its own chapter: “Conceal Your Intentions,” “Always Say Less Than Necessary,” “Pose as a Friend, Work as a Spy,” and so on. Each chapter is conveniently broken down into sections on what happened to those who transgressed or observed the particular law, the key elements in this law, and ways to defensively reverse this law when it’s used against you. Quotations in the margins amplify the lesson being taught. While compelling in the way an auto accident might be, the book is simply nonsense. Rules often contradict each other. We are told, for instance, to “be conspicuous at all cost,” then told to “behave like others.” More seriously, Greene never really defines “power,” and he merely asserts, rather than offers evidence for, the Hobbesian world of all against all in which he insists we live. The world may be like this at times, but often it isn’t. To ask why this is so would be a far more useful project.

If the authors are serious, this is a silly, distasteful book. If they are not, it’s a brilliant satire.

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 1998

ISBN: 0-670-88146-5

Page Count: 430

Publisher: Viking

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 1998

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The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the...


Elie Wiesel spent his early years in a small Transylvanian town as one of four children. 

He was the only one of the family to survive what Francois Maurois, in his introduction, calls the "human holocaust" of the persecution of the Jews, which began with the restrictions, the singularization of the yellow star, the enclosure within the ghetto, and went on to the mass deportations to the ovens of Auschwitz and Buchenwald. There are unforgettable and horrifying scenes here in this spare and sombre memoir of this experience of the hanging of a child, of his first farewell with his father who leaves him an inheritance of a knife and a spoon, and of his last goodbye at Buchenwald his father's corpse is already cold let alone the long months of survival under unconscionable conditions. 

The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the sphere of suffering shared, and in this case extended to the death march itself, there is no spiritual or emotional legacy here to offset any reader reluctance.

Pub Date: Jan. 16, 2006

ISBN: 0374500010

Page Count: 120

Publisher: Hill & Wang

Review Posted Online: Oct. 7, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2006

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