Customer Review

81 of 83 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A stunning reappraisal of 'victimhood', 25 Sept. 2010
This review is from: 3,096 Days (Paperback)
This book is leagues above the standard true-life confessional. It combines a vivid and deeply moving description of her harrowing ordeal along with a bold attempt to smash apart the traditional academic and popular conceptions of victimhood.

From the moment she escaped from captivity, Natascha Kampusch refused to conform to society's expectations of her behaviour. Just as she was punished whenever she failed to conform to Wolfgang Priklopil's set of rules, so she was criticised too by people who didn't approve of her attitude post-escape. Her refusal to accept the label of a 'broken woman' was as infuriating and bewildering to many members of society as it was to her kidnapper.

To her, what she went through was more than just an 'ordeal' with its stock characters of perpetrator and victim. It was an experience, it was her life for eight and a half years, and it's important to her that this period of her life is not merely dealt with to achieve 'closure', but that it will always remain an important part of who she is, with its own elements of light and shade in her memory. Hence her insistence on grieving the death of her kidnapper, which many people find incomprehensible.

Her viewpoint has much in common with that of Imre Kertesz, the Hungarian writer whose book Fateless (made into a successful film) is a semi-autobiographical account of life as a young teenager in a concentration camp. In the film, when the boy returns to Hungary after the war, still wearing his striped pyjamas, a well-wisher says to him "It must have been terrible for you. Were you beaten and starved?" The boy replies "naturally". The man says "Why do you say naturally? It's not natural". The boy replies "It is natural in a concentration camp."

The point is that people, the young especially, can adapt to their changing life circumstances in ways that outsiders simply can't understand. They can learn to treat the irrational, even the absurd as rational. But it is 'natural' to accept your conditions in this way, as probably the best means of survival in certain situations.

That is why Kampusch finds the label "Stockholm Syndrome" offensive, when people apply it to her attachment to her kidnapper. Far from suffering from any 'syndrome', she insists her behaviour was an entirely rational response to her circumstances, and that even within the most horrific situations there are 'better' and 'worse' experiences, moments of profound joy as well as profound fear and profound sorrow.

And nobody, she feels, should deny her any element of the experiences that are hers alone.
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Showing 1-3 of 3 posts in this discussion
Initial post: 1 Nov 2010 15:25:32 GMT
An excellent review which I agree with entirely.
Moira

Posted on 9 Nov 2010 12:02:20 GMT
David Wisdom says:
An insecure,shy little girl is abducted from the street and locked in a well hidden cellar by an insecure, shy little man for over 8 years,yet we never really got to know what really happened as she wishes to keep some secrets of her time in the cellar.I think this is the greatest disappointment in this book. Whilst I respect the authors privacy,this does leave certain questions unanswered and ultimately an empty feeling from this book.
Dave Wisdom

Posted on 3 Oct 2012 21:02:36 BDT
Brilliant review ... very balanced ... I agree entirely.
Best regards, Cat
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G Goodman
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Location: UK

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