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I'm reviewing GIRL IN THE CELLAR.
Product Dimensions: 17.2 x 11 x 2.2 cm
Published by HODDER paperbacks.
Contains 277 pages including two lots of pictures. One lot concerning her abduction and the second lot concerning her escape.
Available for around £5 new or 1p + £2.80 P&P from Amazon and other sellers.
Before I begin I shall point out that I disagree with other reviews elsewhere on this one.
Where they proclaim admiration for the girl who survived her ordeal I see only a very manipulative person who has used her experience to feather her nest when she could have spoken out for victims had she stopped seeing dollar signs and thought about what she could give back in thanksgiving for surviving whatever her ordeal was.
On the 2nd of March 1998, 10 year old Natascha Kampusch was walking to school in Vienna when she was abducted .
Eight years later she turned up at a house in Strasshof, not far from Vienna demanding the housewife there contact the police for her. "Not the local Police. I didn't want a local Police car from the nearby Ganserndorf office to come. I wanted straight away to talk to the person in charge of the Natascha Kampusch case". Start as you mean to go on Natascha.
She was 18, had been held captive for 8 years but was making clearly defined demands and, despite being shaky, was in total control regarding what she wanted.
There is a distinct and immediate arrogance in assuming people will recognise her name, and that there is still a "person in charge" of her case 8 years after the event.
*********** She was an only child and her parents had separated. By all accounts her father ,whom she spent weekends with, adored her and was happy spending time with her. They would go to his holiday home just across the border in Hungary and he and everyone they spent time with recall they were very close. The dad took her everywhere with him during those weekends "even to the discos" he proudly claims. The mother also seemed loving but she seems to have gone her own way a lot . Natascha was basically a latchkey kid. For example on the night prior to her kidnap Natascha was dropped off by her father only to find a note from her mother, "Gone to the cinema. Mutti.X"...which was just normal in her life according to neighbours.
On the morning of her abduction her mother had slapped her face for sleeping past her alarm. Tension at home ?
So already there is an odd dichotomy in her life where daddy can't spend enough time with her , and mummy spent a lot of time anywhere but with Natascha and was not averse to slapping her for a minor offence.
*************, Wolfgang Priklopil. Born in 1962 and an only child who is described as odd and not very likeable by most people. As a child he was very clever and by age 14 he became a loner and intensely argumentative , often heard screaming at his doting mother (but only when his father wasn't around). His father died in the 80's and left most of his assets(including their house) to his son rather than his wife. For a time Wolfgang opted to stay with his mother in her little apartment , but at some point he decided to live full time in his inherited house instead....... and there it began.
The neighbours called it Fort Knox due to all the security gadgetry he installed, but had they known how he renovated the cellar they might have called it the Bastille.
So that is the cast of the story.
Natascha was kidnapped by Wolfgang. Her parents tried to keep the search for her fresh ,but it was a waste of time. As with all such cases it slowly faded into a distant memory for most people other than Natascha's family. There is no doubting their fight to keep the search alive, despite accusations of all sorts of "not nice" things thrown at them in the press. They weren't perfect parents by any stretch of the imagination ,but then no parent is perfect. Of the two I find the mother just a bit questionable for making bad life style choices and I think the father tried to over compensate. But that's just my opinion and others might disagree.
Anyway, Natascha was somewhere no-one would find her . With Wolfgang. When she reappeared like a magician's rabbit pulled from a hat eight years later most people said "Who?" .
Within hours of her escape Wolfgang threw himself under a train and was killed outright.
For me the story really begins with her resurrection from the cellar she was held in.
***MORE DETAIL and MY OPINION***
I'm going to be brutally frank here. Natascha is not a girl who elicits empathy from me, although I confess to having a streak of disbelief running through me regarding the truth of many the "true Crime" stories I choose to read, so no surprise there.
She is cool to the point of coldness and from the moment she escaped she took charge in an astonishing manner.
First there was the odd demand to deal only with the policeman "in charge of the Natascha Kampusch case". An assumption of fame ? As if everyone would immediately scream " IT'S LITTLE NATASCHA ! SHE IS SAFE!". When in reality the PC Plod cops who did turn up simply demanded details before they accepted her claims to any degree.
Then there was her demand of the police that she be given a blanket to hide her face as she emerged from the police station. Shyness ? No.....she said she didn't want the press getting pictures of her. Till she was ready ?
She was taken to hospital, and after spending some time there (as in days/weeks rather than hours) she agreed to record an interview for television. She spent 4 hours with her "media advisers" (I kid you not) practising her 'routine' and demeanour. Once the interview started she would occasionally call a halt and demand to see replay, to see how she was coming across. Some footage was deleted because she felt her teeth looked bad in that part . The TV people were astonished and said she was behaving like a Hollywood movie star.
At one point she was asked "Were you lonely?". To which she snapped " WHAT A RIDICULOUS QUESTION!" and flounced out of the room.
During the interview she refused point blank to discuss if intimacy had occurred between her and the man she called "Wolfie".
She declared "He was not my master. I was as strong as him". Really ?
Yes , I think she WAS actually . Probably stronger.
This is one tough cookie. Something is odd about the whole scenario.
There is even a theory that the lonely 10 year old girl knew her kidnapper and entered into the relationship willingly.
He frequented a small bar that Natascha had been to with one or other of her parents. Did they meet? Were they friends? That seems a possibility but I doubt being entombed in a cellar was part of HER plan .
That's another thing that is intriguing....within six months Wolfie gave her the run of the highly secured upstairs house. They would spend the days together there she says. They would be like any couple eating together and watching TV , although she says he didn't allow her to watch News programs/bulletins..... and then she'd go back in the cellar.
She was even seen by neighbours helping him wash his cars quite a few times and was seen in the garden where they grew tomatoes, like any suburban family. Neighbours simply thought " Ooh la la......Wolfie has got himself a girl" . And indeed he had, by whatever means.
And how about a ski trip ? Surely not ! Yes, and Natascha knew people would be horrified at the very idea that the victim was off swooshing around on ski slopes free as a birdie, so she denied any such trip EVER took place, till she was faced with the evidence unearthed that proved she had indeed gone on a ski trip with Wolfie . They'd even been stopped at a police checkpoint on the return journey. Natascha reportedly smiled at the police and looked relaxed. So little Natascha lied blatantly and publicly to maintain her mantle of victim-hood fully spotless.
This was a really odd book. Yes it had lots of detail,but it was detail after the event with no-one to call Natascha a liar on her version of things, or verify her story either.There was of course the cellar room, tricked out like a small basic old fashioned touring caravan with a high bed with space underneath for her possessions and with a toilet and steel sink unit in one corner. There was also a large desk area with cupboards, many books, lots of craft items ,a cassette/cd/player/radio and a TV........yes, her own TV and radio, and yet she claims he wouldn't let her see News items in the main house.
Personally I think the child went willingly with him, but because he knew how THAT would end up when she returned home he made sure she would be a permanent fixture. I think she fell for him and was a semi-willing partner for a number of years, until she grew up and out of him and the relationship lost the initial chemistry. Now ,before anyone gets aerated at me talking chemistry regarding a 10 year old , her mother says Natascha told her the first words she said to Wolfie in the van when he grabbed her were "Are you going to rape me ?" . So this was a very sexually aware little girl. Plus she was in adult company a lot during time with her father.....including time at adult discos where she will have learned to be comfortable and equal to adults .
Also her inability to talk about intimacy smacks a bit of when you don't want to disrespect a past boyfriend by speaking ill of him (especially when he is dead) because while the relationship might be over you feel a certain loyalty.
She has threatened to sue any publisher dubbing her a "sex slave".
But seriously, are we to believe he kidnapped her for someone to play cards with and help him wash his cars ?
There is just no avoiding the sexual issue, distasteful as it is, especially when one of the first things she asked for on her escape was a pregnancy test.
She escaped in August ,and in October of that year (2006) the German Magazine STERN published claims that Wolfgang Priklopil was involved in a seedy ring involved in child abuse. They say there are "indications that Natascha was used in this way" by him and possibly others, and they stand firmly by their story.Tellingly Natascha has not sued them.
But most poignantly, one woman whose 5 yr old child was taken and raped within that ring says ".....perhaps the parents of little children who have been abused.........might like to hear something more condemning of Priklopil and his actions coming from her lips."
Instead Natascha has declared "Wolfie was no sex beast. Neither was I. We had a tender relationship".
Natascha wanted to go to Wolfie's funeral, but was talked out of it.
Instead she went to the morgue and asked for ten minutes alone with Priklopil.
It's a very complex case for sure and I might be misreading everything, but there are so many questions unanswered that I just can't take this robotic cold girl at face value.
Something that irritated me with this book was the over use of massive long paragraphs on the psychology of everything from her parents relationship, to Wolfie's psyche, to her reaction to escape, to her parents dealing with her return......endless psycho-babble that I frankly found boring and repetitive.
The authors were good regarding compiling information that was relevant to the story ,but it really wasn't necessary to enlist professors of this, that and whatever to give long winded opinions.
However I do concede that the psychological issues are what some people want to read in these kind of cases, and if that is your taste then this book will be that more interesting for you.
Personally I prefer that kept to a necessary minimum .
Did I enjoy this book? I'm not really sure. It's hard to judge when my method of reading it involved reading a few chapters, getting bored with the psych talk, setting it aside, and going back to it maybe a week later. So going on that routine I suppose it's obvious it wasn't riveting for me. I think I spent about four weeks reading it ....unheard of for me. Most books I buy are read and back in the bookcase within days, or a week for a really long interesting one.
Such a pity when the writing style was otherwise good . Really we were given as much detail as was available considering Miss Kampusch's paranoid need to control all information. The authors did rather well on background though.
Again, I've given lots of detail, but it is the tip of the iceberg and there is much more within the pages.
Would I recommend it ? Only if you are happy with plenty of psyche-padding inserted randomly in your books.
Otherwise it was a decent read and worth a three star rating.
Natashcha is now said to be a millionaire many times over with financial advisors, legal representation and total control control of her life.
Under Austrian law ,as a victim she was entitled to claim compensation from the perpetrator of the crimes against her. This involves a claim on their assets ,which in this case included 'Wolfie's' house.
So, did she claim it ? The house she was held captive in and abused in for eight years ? Go on.....have a guess.
This is Natascha......of course she did. She says it was her home for 8 years and she is entitled to it, SO THERE ! .... but concedes she might let the elderly Mrs Priklopil live there till she dies.
Thank you for reading and I hope it was interesting ~~~myloh.