- File Size: 1854 KB
- Print Length: 289 pages
- Publisher: Little, Brown and Company (December 12, 2017)
- Publication Date: December 12, 2017
- Sold by: Hachette Book Group
- Language: English
- ASIN: B06Y11MMSM
- Text-to-Speech: Enabled
- Word Wise: Enabled
- Lending: Not Enabled
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #95,796 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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The Only Girl in the World: A Memoir Kindle Edition
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"A harrowing yet achingly beautiful tale of a girlimprisoned by her brutal, fanatic family, but whose yearning for wonder andlove ultimately drives her toward the improbable light of theworld. . . The Only Girl in the World is a story of resilienceunlike any I have ever read.""Mira Bartók, author of the National Book CriticsCircle Award Winner The Memory Palace"
"In the hierarchy of traumatic memoir, Maude Julien has something to write home about. . . The OnlyGirl in the World is thehaunting story of a girl whose survivalist parents locked her away andsubjected her to 'training' starting at the age of three. But it is also proofthat love is in our nature regardless of our nurture."Vanity Fair
"One of the most original and compelling storiesI've read. Atale of hope and profound courage, The Only Girl in the World illustrates how trustingourselves and following our hearts can save us from the most oppressive andcruel conditions. Her brave spirit shines as a bright reminder that what lieswithin us is stronger and more powerful than our circumstances.""RuthWariner, New York Times bestselling author of The Sound ofGravel"
"A living testimony of resilience... An account as gripping as it is inspiring."Elle
"A disturbing,engrossing memoir. . . A startling testament of survival."Kirkus
"This is not the umpteenth book about a miraculously saved victim. It is much more, and much better. . . One of the most fascinating things about this memoir is the extraordinary resistance Maude developed . . . her ability to create a world for herself."Le Journal du Dimanche
"This story is never maudlin-it is so absorbing that you have to remind yourself to breathe from time to time."Le Point
"A harrowing, gripping memoir of abuse and psychopathy...Julien approaches the pastwith fearless contemplation, veracity, and vivid portrayals of the brutality inher early life."The AV Club
"The year's most harrowing memoir...At times thebook, in form, resembles the beginnings of Emma Donoghue's Room, but this text is necessarily more graphic and frightening...Mymultiple audible gasps while working through The Only Girl in the World were partly aresult of its author's ability to so artfully capture the meaning and depth ofher survival. You wonder how anyone who went through what she did could comeout functioning on the other side...That The Only Girl in the World exists as itdoes is a most persuasive argument for Julien's remarkable willpower."Entertainment Weekly
About the Author
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The Only Girl In The World is a memoir by French psychotherapist, Maude Julien, in collaboration with French journalist, Ursula Gauthier. When she was three years old, Maude’s father, Louis Didier liquidated his assets and bought a house near Cassel where he took his wife and daughter to live in virtual isolation from the world around them. Thereafter, Maude’s upbringing was strictly regimented, physically demanding and devoid of human love and affection, in accordance with her father’s grand plan to raise a superhuman being.
By seven years of age, Maude already recognised that “I belong to my parents. I am their thing. There is no place for life inside me or around me”. She is regularly subjected to Meditation on Death in a dark cellar: “My eyes frantically probe the darkness. Only my ears can make anything out, and what they hear propels me into an abyss of terror. A host of sinister noises, little animals moving around in the dark, scurrying, running, stopping, rummaging and scuttling off again. I’m screaming inside, but no sound comes out because my lips are clamped shut and quivering. My father told me that if I open my mouth, mice or even rats will sense it and will climb up me, get into my mouth and eat me from the inside….. I worry that the mice might be able to get in through my ears. But if I cover them with my hands, I won’t hear anything, I’ll be blind and deaf”.
At eight years old: “I sleep for six and a half hours, and work or study for fifteen or sixteen hours”. Maude is subjected to ‘Tough pedagogy’: “…all distractions must be eliminated. I have to learn to sleep as little as possible, because sleep is a waste of time. I also have to cope without any of life’s pleasures, starting with delights for the tastebuds, which are the surest route to weakness. …. For the sake of my training, I also have to respect special rules, like never eating fresh bread. My portion of the bread we bake every two weeks is systematically set aside to go stale”.
Given the choice of a calendar at Christmas, she hesitates before choosing, prompting this lecture: “Choosing has nothing to do with pleasure. Only the weak hesitate and take pleasure in choosing. Life isn’t about pleasure, it’s a merciless struggle. If you show someone what gives you pleasure, you’re revealing your vulnerability, and that person will take advantage of them to crush you”.
As the reader progresses through Maude’s account of her childhood and adolescence, it becomes patently clear that her father is delusional, but still manages to wield great power over his wife and daughter, indoctrinating them both with his bizarre ideas. That Maude survives with her sanity intact is no spoiler; the role that her animals, her music and her own determination to survive play in that outcome make for a fascinating and inspirational read.
The text is flawlessly translated from French by Adriana Hunter, and the author’s note to her English readers forms an important endnote.
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.
Yes, you should read it. It’s beautiful, and left me raw, and it made me think about life…
EVERYTHING in life.
Such as the family I’ve been blessed with, and the relationships I’ve taken for granted, and how the mountains I had yesterday are really just molehills. I read it with a pain in my chest. Not figuratively, an actual pain, like something was squeezing my heart. And I kept having to put the book down, because my throat hurt too much. All I could think about through the journey was a little girl that somebody should have rescued, and yet nobody came for… Only to find that in the end, she rescued herself.
It’s a book about the beauty of the human spirit. About the fight to survive, and the will to flourish—even when there is nothing in life that supports the dream. It’s a book about courage, and insurmountable odds. And gratitude. So, MUCH gratitude, for everything I have, and for everything I’ve been given. Don’t miss the journey. Don’t miss the chance to be grateful.
Most of all, don’t miss this book. It broke my heart, but it was just so beautiful and gripping I couldn’t turn away.
I received an ARC copy of this book from the publisher. My opinions are my own.
Top international reviews
This book is an example of how the mind and heart can overcome trauma and I hope she continues to do so.
If you enjoy true life stories, then this one definitely worth a read.
I would have liked it to have been more than a memoir as her story is deserving of a full blow autobiography.
Beautifully written and translated, the story is never presented as a 'poor little me' story but rather an account of the many incidents that made up Maude's childhood.