Author of the week
Maude Julien had one of the worst childhoods anyone could imagine, said Scott Simon in NPR.org. Now a 60-year-old psychotherapist, Julien was raised on an isolated rural estate in northern France by a father who tortured her routinely in his quest to cultivate a superhuman. He forced her to drink whiskey, dangled her over cliffs, and made her hold an electric fence without twitching for 10 minutes at a time. One night each month, he made her sit perfectly still in a dark, rat-infested cellar while contemplating death. “My father believed the world was divided between those who were mentally and physically strong and those who were weak,” she says. Instead of becoming superhuman, Julien was driven to despair.
In her memoir, The Only Girl in the World, Julien reports that she learned to trust no adults, said Jane Ridley in the New York Post. Her mother, who was just as much a prisoner of the household dictator, did nothing when she witnessed Maude being sexually abused by one of the property’s laborers. Only the company of her dog and two ponies kept Julien sane. “I really think that without my animals, I wouldn’t be alive today,” she says. But a music teacher who visited the estate finally freed her at 18, following three years of careful planning. Julien’s mother, from whom she has been estranged for years, hasn’t managed as full a psychological recovery, and Julien has yet to receive a reply after sending her a copy of the memoir. “I really want it to be a book of hope,” she says. “I consider it an escape manual.” ■