The only girl in the world : a memoir / Maude Julien with Ursula Gauthier ; translated by Adriana Hunter.

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  • Additional Information
    • Publication Information:
      First North American edition.
    • Abstract:
      Summary: The Only Girl in the World describes the author's harrowing upbringing by fanatic parents, who raised her in isolation through traumatic disciplinary exercises designed to "eliminate weakness" and recounts how she eventually escaped with the help of an outsider.
    • Other Titles:
      Derrière la grille. English
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Booklist Reviews 2017 November #2

In 1936, Louis Didier adopted a daughter. At 18, after receiving an education, she returned to marry him and fulfill her purpose: to bear his child, who was to become a "superior being," capable of thwarting all evil and "raising up humanity." Julien's debut memoir, with coauthor Gauthier, recounts her isolated childhood in rural France, where she was kept prisoner and indoctrinated by her father, a Freemason whose paranoia had overtaken his life. To prepare her for the challenges ahead, Julien's parents subjected her to years of physical and psychological torture: she was forced to grip electric fences and to sit for hours without moving in a rat-infested cellar, all to ensure that she would be strong enough to best any enemies. Julien's frank descriptions of each atrocity underline the stark reality that she lived in—a reality where emotions were forbidden and no one was to be trusted. It is Julien's relationships with animals that keep her alive, teaching her love and empathy and bringing a compelling warmth and hope into an often-devastating memoir. Copyright 2017 Booklist Reviews.

LJ Reviews 2017 July #1

Drawing comparison to Jeannette Walls's The Glass Castle, this memoir details some pretty horrific stuff. Julien's parents, obsessed with making her a survivor devoid of any sort of weakness, deprived her of heat, hot water, decent food, and affection and made her do things like holding onto an electrified fence without recoiling. Now she's a therapist specializing in the issues surrounding manipulation and control. With a 50,000—copy first printing.

Copyright 2017 Library Journal.

PW Reviews 2017 October #2

Julien writes of growing up in a family of survivalists in a town outside of Dunkirk, France, in this harrowing memoir. Born in 1957, Julien, now a psychotherapist living in Paris, was locked away from the world for over a decade starting at age three. During this time, Julien's days were meticulously scheduled. Her mother became her sole teacher; she lived in a dark cellar to "meditate on death"; her father made her hold onto electric fences in order to strengthen her willpower. She rarely came into physical contact with anyone besides her parents, and the only sense of love and companionship she felt was for her two pets—her dog, Linda, and her horse, Arthur. Her father claimed superpowers, even the ability to read minds. As she grew older, Julien alternated between fear and resistance, realizing that her father might just be a "friendless, loveless man, who never gives or receives any kindness." It was only at age 16 that she was able to leave the family compound in order to take her state school exams. The following year, she was allowed to take a train to Dunkirk to study music, and it was only then that she realized she could break away from her parents. This is a dark, moving, and thoughtfully rendered story. (Dec.)

Copyright 2017 Publishers Weekly.