The Little Girl on the Ice Floe by Adelaide Bon, translated by Ruth Diver
As the scale and impact of child sexual abuse is finally becoming acknowledged and understood (though tenuously so, as recent comments by a defence QC in a famous court case chillingly reminded us), the realisation that so many people live with its devastation and trauma is also dawning. Knowing this intellectually is one thing; truly empathising is another. Memoir offers readers a way to begin this journey of deep understanding; survivors might find words of recognition. Adélaïde Bon’s totally compelling book, The Little Girl on the Ice Floe (La Petite Fille sur la Banquise in French), made quite an impression in France, and is now available to read in English translation.
Bon takes readers deep into the experience of her trauma, visited on her at the age of nine, when she was raped by a stranger in the stairwell of her apartment building. Moving deftly between the first, second, and third person (a technique that mirrors the author’s dissociation from the event and her personal growth), Bon leaves nothing off limits in her description of how this act of violence affects every single aspect of her life, from her sexuality and personal relationships, to her very sense of being. The long search for equilibrium involves so many therapeutic modes; she never gives up. Finally, in her thirties, the ordeal begins anew with the arrest of a man who is being charged with multiple instances of her own experience, and we enter the courtroom with Bon. The French legal system is just as brutal on the victims of sexual abuse as Australia’s (as Bri Lee recounted in her ferocious Eggshell Skull). I will admit there were parts of this book I had to stop short of reading: it’s incredibly intense. The literary treatment of this experience, though, is innovative, revealing, and provocative. This story celebrates courage and survival; its telling is a profound political act.