Spoiler alert: This is not a book about a victim of domestic violence. This is a story about a survivor’s resilience & recovery.
In 2003, after years of domestic violence, Simonne’s partner attacked her with a blunt samurai sword, severing both her hands and leaving her for dead. After a ground-breaking 27 hour surgery, her hands were reattached, and the start of a lengthy rehabilitation began.
The book comes from Butler’s diaries and memories, and is wonderfully crafted by Andra Jenkin. It has distinct key acts, all interweaving and influencing each other.
The first is Simonne’s childhood where domestic violence was normalised and she was forced to take on the caregiver role with her alcoholic mother. There is an all too familiar family history of mothers suffering violence silently and selflessly.
Dixon’s pursuit of Simonne has an understandably ominous tone. His persistence, feeling romantic and flattering at the time, becomes a foreshadowing of disrespecting boundaries and Simonne’s own wishes and desires. It’s a thin line between courting and stalking, and one that is seen only through hindsight.
The relationship itself starts as it ends, with a surrender. A surrender at the beginning of resisting his advances, and a surrender of freedom in the months leading to the attack. The writing on the escalating attacks and rapes is bitingly honest and raw. It’s a natural yet naïve response to question domestic abuse survivors and sufferers. Why did you stay? Simonne’s critical eye on her own experience does a wonderful job of putting you in her headspace, and living through her fear and shame.
After experiencing the years of abuse, the lead up to attack fills you with dread. It Is brutal, and terrifying, and a difficult read. It genuinely left me with a lump in my throat, and I had to leave the book for a few hours before I carried on.
The final act is an incredibly moving story of resilience and a lengthy recovery in the years following the attack. The sheer number of follow up operations and physical rehabilitation is overwhelming, but the real story is the control Simonne took over her own healing & wellbeing. At a time when everybody expected her to break, her only complaint was the absolute loss of independence when she wasn’t able to use her hands. Any pity you feel for Simonne is firmly replaced with admiration and respect.
This book should be critical reading for every woman. Women affected by domestic abuse, women struggling to support loved ones who are trapped in abusive relationships, and a guide rope for all women on what is healthy in a relationship and what should be a warning sign.
Get your copy here button - http://www.simonnebutler.co.nz