Thursday, June 23, 2011

Monster by Allan Hall

Title/Author: Monster/Allan Hall
Publisher: Penguin Books
Pages: 269
ISBN 13: 978-0141039701

In a nutshell
On 28th August 1984, Josef Fritzl drugged his teenage daughter Elisabeth with ether and imprisoned her in a soundproof underground bunker, behind eight locked doors for 24 years. He raped and abused her. She bore him 7 children.

The author has packed a great deal of insightful information into the 269-page book, complete with 150 interviews with neighbours, former tenants, childhood friends, police officers, and photographs of those involved and diagrams of the dungeon.

‘Monster’ is definitely not for the faint-hearted. It contains gruesome details, chilling confessions, terrifying truths, and a lot of ugliness - exactly what one should expect from reading about a cold-blooded animal who finds gratification in raping and abusing his own flesh and blood.

See if you can stomach this:
The police force which was tasked to probe the dungeon were ordered to undergo psychological counselling as they felt crushed by its claustrophobic feel and 'unutterable sadness' at the pitiful drawings the children had made on the walls. The shower curtains were covered in mould. The toilet, which was in the kitchen was in a catastrophic state and emanated an unbearable stench.

Despite the dungeon's condition, despite her unfathomable fate, for 24 years, Elisabeth single-handedly raised her children. She taught them to walk, to read, to write and to do multiplication. She cooked for them, washed for them, loved them. There was no time off for her. And yet, she managed to give the children a 'good' life under the given circumstances in the dungeon.

Aftermath
This book is divided into 3 parts: Master Plan, Martyrdom, and Miracle. There were some parts I had to skip because they were too graphic for me. It was I read about Elisabeth's children in "Secrets and Lies Revealed", in "Miracle", that I teared.

"Then, when Felix (Elisabeth's youngest son) was led outside for the first time in his life and he looked up at the sky, he pointed and said: 'Is that where God lives?' He requires no PlayStation, Nintendo or any of these gizmos to be happy; just a ride in the car and a glimpse of thunder clouds bedazzle him.

When Elisabeth's two sons went for a ride in a police car, they were fascinated by the headlights, and were shouting and hiding behind the seats. They were in awe of almost everything they saw, even the moon. This was so heart-breaking it brought tears to my eyes.

The blame game
When their ordeal ended, the questions began. Elisabeth was missing for 24 years. "How could anyone not notice?" "Weren't the neighbours suspicious?" "If they were, why did they not do something about it?"

Some blamed it on Elisabeth's mom, and said she was his unwilling accomplice. Some blamed it on the Austrian's culture of silence; their tradition of sweeping things under the carpet. Some questioned the social welfare teams whose task is to act as busybodies - why did they visit the home of a convicted felon 21 times, and YET NEVER took a look around?

And how could the monster be given the adoption rights to the three children (the ones whom the monster chose to live with the grandmother upstairs) who were left on their doorstep over a decade, without enquiring after the location of their mother?

You could read all about this in the "Aftermath" chapter. You'll find very interesting interviews and information you may not get on the internet.

The take away message for me...
I know the importance of sunlight, but it never occurred to me that someone out there could be deprived of it. And to read about a child who never got to see a moon is something totally unimaginable to me. What more to learn that the only people this family had ever communicated with were themselves, and the only voices they recognised were those of theirs or the television's, is depressing...

After reading this, I can't help but be thankful for the many simple things in life which I've taken for granted. Now, I'm just glad that I have clean air to breathe, that I get to see sunshine in the morning, to feel the sun's warmth on my face, to see the moon and stars at night, to listen to the rhythm of the rain (the children have never felt or seen rain until they were released), to feel soil under my feet (the only surface their feet ever felt is the floor of their dungeon), to see trees dance in the wind (the only trees they've seen are those on TV or the ones they've drawn on the walls), to go anywhere I please (They've been told that the dungeon was their world), to have choices (which they never had), to have the power to make my own decision (which they too never had. Something they needed to learn to deal with after their release) to be able to fulfill my own needs, to be able to plan my day instead of being dictated by someone else; mostly to have my freedom and prerogative.

Who should read this?
Strictly for those who want to know/read more even after reading the above information. Also for those who think their life is a living hell.

I must warn you first. The description can be very graphic in some parts.

Latest on the family
You can read it here.

3 comments:

Au and Target said...

I'm avoiding this one.

christa @ mental foodie said...

This sounds like a very interesting read - I used to read a lot more true crime, so have come across some graphic scenes (serial killers anyone).

I like your take away message!

A Bookaholic said...

Thanks Christa! And thx for dropping by too! :)

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