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Wednesday, September 23, 2015

A Stolen Life Jaycee Dugard

Book 46 about Jaycee Dugard's incarceration for 18 years from when she was 10 is harrowing reading, and sadly not unique, being very similar to Natascha Kampusch's experience in Austria, amongst others.

Jaycee has been brave enough to write her memoirs herself. This gives A Stolen Life a personal touch which other books don't have but it does mean  only one side of the story is told. Her captor's tale is missing and her family's suffering likewise. The book is just about Jaycee. It's also interposed with accounts and commentary written after she was discovered. All in all I found it rather unbalanced, I'd rather it read as a chronological tale of her experiences instead of jumping between present and past. A professional writer might have done a better job, if I have to be critical.

The amazing thing about Jaycee's tale is how much under her captor's spell she was. It would have been so easy to escape after the first few years, but she never did. She doesn't really say why this is, she says she doesn't know. Again a bit of a perspective would help. I remember reading a book on Natascha Kampusch and there was a lot of talk of Stockholm syndrome with other examples and a bit of background.

Jaycee was captured she didn't do much for 18 years, largely because she couldn't. A lot of the years are filled with descriptions of pets that died and other fairly mundane details of what life she managed to eke out.

What does come through is how she survived. She adapted to her situation but she never allowed her captors to subdue her. Jaycee gained their confidence and never tried to escape, had she done so she'd probably have been killed. Eventually she was trusted, and her increased exposure meant the inevitable happened and she attracted attention. Amazingly she still had to be forced to tell the truth even after she was challenged about her identity.

I'd be interested to read a more rounded book about this case, but this one is a good start and I award it 6 out of 10.

Next up for book 47 (the final volume in the Biography section) is yet another book about an American software "guru". I have previously read books about Jeff Bezos and Steve Jobs in this project, now it is the turn of Paul Allen. I don't necessarily read a lot of books like this, it's just the way things have panned out and I like to read biographies of people who have changed the world not minor film stars!

The difference between Paul Allen and the other is he was never the front man at Microsoft, that was down to Bill Gates (some of whose books I have also read). Allen I think was more of an ideas man, the brains behind the outfit. That's the sort of role I tend to play in organisations (albeit at a much lower profile!) so I'll be interested to pick up some things I can learn from Allen's career and what he did.

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