I am honoured to be kicking off the blog tour for Madeleine Black’s memoir Unbroken.
Sometimes you don’t just connect with a book, but with the writer too. You read a story – a true story – that touches you on a deep level, one that you almost feel the author was writing just for you. That’s how it was when I first read Unbroken by Madeleine Black.
We had connected over social media and bookish groups when Madeleine contacted me to say she had read my first book. Her memoir had been on my radar before that, and now I finally picked it up and began. It is a book that changed me. This might sound cliché or overly profound, but it’s completely true. I took it wherever I went, on the bus, to work, shopping. But I had to take my sunglasses too; because I was crying on the Number 66 to Hull.
Unbroken is about more than just what happened to Madeleine. And what happened is terrible. Terrible isn’t a terrible enough word. Her experience, aged just thirteen, was the truest definition of horror. No, this is about how she eventually faced, dealt with, and overcame her brutal gang rape. This is no misery memoir. This is a soaring, uplifting, difficult, beautiful diary of the spiritual journey Madeleine took, and how she eventually came to forgive her attackers. I was most fascinated by the monk, who she tells me is often still at her side.
I had someone ask me once how I could read such a bleak book. I asked if they read crime or psychological thrillers, to which they said, yes, they devoured them. And this struck me hard. That readers might eat up fictional murders so brutal they cause nightmares, but would not consider learning of the effects of real-life crime of real-life people. We should all read this book. Knowing about rape is power. Talking about rape is power. Madeleine happens also to be a great speaker. She isn’t afraid to talk, and she’s very eloquent when she does. Try and see her at an event.
Madeleine and I realised the themes of Unbroken and my current novel, Maria in the Moon, were every similar. They both involve women finding the light again after the darkest of experiences. So we did an event together at Leeds Waterstones, called Not Broken – Exploring Survival Through Writing. When I met Madeleine for the first time at Leeds Station it was as though we have known one another for a lifetime. For me, it was quite emotional. She is so petite that when I hugged her, I thought, who could hurt such a girl? But Madeleine is strong. She is an inspiration. And she is now a dear friend.
So I’m honoured to be kicking off the blog tour for her haunting memoir, a book that should be a must read for all of us. If Madeleine can find the courage to share her experience then we can at least find the courage to read about it. If she can talk, then we all should be.
Order her book here Unbroken.
Madeleine and I will be doing another Not Broken event at Glasgow Waterstones on 18th January, with Michael J Malone, author of House of Spines, so do join us there.