REVIEW: Things We Didn't Talk About When I Was a Girl, Jeannie Vanasco

Wednesday, 13 May 2020

REVIEW: Things We Didn't Talk About When I Was a Girl, Jeannie Vanasco banner graphic

Fifteen years ago, Jeannie’s relationship with a close friend ended in rape. With the rise of the #MeToo movement, recurring nightmares of the event that plagued her as a girl have returned. To process her conflicted feelings of betrayal and take back control, she resolves to face her trauma head-on by interviewing her rapist. Through their transcribed conversations and discussions with her closest friends, Jeannie's memoir explores how the incident impacted both of their lives, while examining the culture and language surrounding sexual assault and rape.

I have gone back and forward on reviewing this book because, while I understand Jeannie Vanasco's desire to write it, I question her decision to publish it. Things We Didn't Talk About When I Was a Girl is Vanasco's attempts to understand why her rapist assaulted her and though, the project in its entirety surely brought her some salvation, it ultimately would have only worked as insular ruminations. I do not mean to make light, to discount her process or piss on her attempts of recovery but I can not help what I feel - that this book comprised only a part of an ongoing process. A first draft, if you will, of something that one day will turn into something more concrete. Because primarily, this is a book of subjunctive desires ("this is how I will feel"/"this is what I going to do") and the longwinded conversations that Jeannie Vanasco had with her rapist in order to realise them.
I suppose that it is no spoiler to say that she never really gets an answer.
Most people don't.
But this wasn't that - it wasn't what she was attempting for it to do.
Instead, it was trying to find a root cause; something in his - or even, her - life, that factored into what happened. Something to pin down; to draw a circle around; to a-ha to the waiting, reading audience.
But that answer never came.
And when your strapline is "Why would a good person commit a terrible act?", that is just not something you can pin the book on.

star rating: one star

Thanks to NetGalley and the publisher for sending me a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

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