REVIEW: Eggshell Skull by Bri Lee

Eggshell Skull by Bri Lee

Published May 23rd 2018 by Allen & Unwin

Pages: 358

Format: ARC

Source: Work

Links: Goodreads | Readings

EGGSHELL SKULL: A well-established legal doctrine that a defendant must ‘take their victim as they find them’. If a single punch kills someone because of their thin skull, that victim’s weakness cannot mitigate the seriousness of the crime. 

But what if it also works the other way? What if a defendant on trial for sexual crimes has to accept his ‘victim’ as she comes: a strong, determined accuser who knows the legal system, who will not back down until justice is done?

Bri Lee began her first day of work at the Queensland District Court as a bright-eyed judge’s associate. Two years later she was back as the complainant in her own case. 

This is the story of Bri’s journey through the Australian legal system; first as the daughter of a policeman, then as a law student, and finally as a judge’s associate in both metropolitan and regional Queensland-where justice can look very different, especially for women. The injustice Bri witnessed, mourned and raged over every day finally forced her to confront her own personal history, one she’d vowed never to tell. And this is how, after years of struggle, she found herself on the other side of the courtroom, telling her story.

Bri Lee has written a fierce and eloquent memoir that addresses both her own reckoning with the past as well as with the stories around her, to speak the truth with wit, empathy and unflinching courage. Eggshell Skull is a haunting appraisal of modern Australia from a new and essential voice.

This post was originally posted at Of Wonderland, and is part of a process of me resharing reviews of my favourite books and important reviews over the next few months.

This book speaks about sexual abuse, child abuse, mental illness, self-harm, eating disorders and a host of other triggering elements. While I haven’t discussed any of this in this review, please be careful if any of this triggers you.

Sit yourself down for this one, because it’s about to get intense.

Eggshell Skull is the kind of book you’re going to want to read in one sitting, only it’s so raw and emotional that you’ll have to keep stopping just to catch your breath.

I knew nothing about Bri Lee when I requested an ARC of Eggshell Skull from work. I have no idea how I completely missed her on the internet, especially since I’ve seen a lot of women talking about her now. I don’t know whether that’s just because this book is being released, or whether I’m just seeing it all now that I recognise her name. The point is, I didn’t know anything about her story before diving in.

For the first fifty or so pages, I was worried that I wasn’t going to make it through this. While I was interested, she talks a lot about her experiences in the legal profession and having hated Legal Studies at school, I was a little worried. I was amazed but how interesting I actually found these parts—she talks a lot more about her experiences and the awful cases she saw, rather than the actual law part, and she makes it interesting. The cases she’s seen are genuinely horrible, sometimes so horrible that I had to put the book down for a few hours just to stop myself from being sick. So if you feel triggered by this subject matter, this is not the book for you, no matter how incredible it is.

As well as hating Legal Studies, I’m not usually a big memoir fan. The only memoirs that come to mind that I genuinely loved are Joan Didion’s and Gloria Steinem’s, so it’s a pretty big deal when I tell you that this is up there on that list. It honestly felt like I was sitting there having a conversation with Bri Lee about her experiences. And yes, sometimes I had to leave that conversation for a while when things got too intense or made me too angry or sad, but it felt like she was waiting there with open arms when I came back. I felt completely sucked into her world, so much so that everything else stopped. I lost an entire afternoon without realising because I was so wrapped up in this book. Let me tell you, I don’t think a non fiction book has ever done that for me.

As I’ve mentioned, this book is intense. Even the moments when she’s explaining the very basics of a case. I cried a few times—for Bri, for the people it was happening to, for myself, and for the whole world at times. There were so things I honestly couldn’t believe actually happened—things that just seemed too terrible to be real. But it is, and that made me really sad for a few days after finishing this book. But somehow, I also felt kind of uplifted by Bri’s story. I felt empowered by her standing up and speaking out, and even more empowered by the fact she’d relived the whole thing by writing it down for us. I honestly wanted to give her a big hug and say thank you by the time I reached the end of the book.

So, to summarise, this is definitely going in the running to be one of my favourite books this year. As I said, if this subject is the sort of thing that triggers you, please be careful if you choose to read it. Even if it isn’t, be prepared to be to feel all of the emotions and then some. So please, get your hands on a copy of this.


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