Eggshell Skull by Bri Lee

During her year as a judge’s associate in the District Court in Queensland, Bri Lee finds herself enduring case after case after case involving rape, sexual assault and child abuse. A fact that Lee keeps hidden from friends and family is that she herself is a survivor of childhood sexual assault. Barely able to tolerate this context, Lee is candid about her methods of coping. She is bulimic, she self-harms, she self-medicates. Her day-to-day existence is becoming increasingly precarious, such are the depths of her self-loathing. But after hearing the relief expressed in one particular complainant’s victim impact statement following a guilty verdict, Lee realises it is time to make a report to police about what happened to her. In the second half of the book, Lee documents her entry into the legal system as a complainant, and the excruciating years it takes for her matter to reach a resolution.

This book sears with white-hot feminist rage: at the reverberation of the abuse in her daily life; at the injustices of the legal system, the obtuseness of its bureaucracies, the institutional violence it perpetrates against victims. As we often hear, cases that actually make it to court are a small minority of the actual instances of abuse. The scale of this crisis is a cause for national shame, the legal revisitation of trauma on those affected a final cruelty. Lee shows in forensic detail the heroic strength and determination it takes to bear the arcane apparatus of the law. She draws the reader along at such pace and emotional intensity it is simply impossible to leave the book alone until the final page is read. This honest exploration of the devastation that abuse wreaks is made for – and perhaps emboldened by – these times, and Lee’s openness enables her clear-eyed purpose to ignite discussion and instigate reform. This outstanding book is already a publishing highlight of 2018.

Alison Huber is the head book buyer at Readings.

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Eggshell Skull

Eggshell Skull

Bri Lee

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