Australia’s Kathryn Heyman, better known for her fiction, has now written Fury, a powerful memoir that makes for compelling, harrowing reading.
When she was in her 20s, she was raped by a taxi driver after attending a boozy party. Another passing taxi brought her to a police station, where her statement was taken.
The ensuing court case in which Heyman alleged rape against the first driver would prove as traumatic as the assault.
Due to her state of inebriation at the time, Heyman’s credibility was questioned and then destroyed.
She was shamed at every step: by the sergeant who queries her intoxication and by the defending barrister, who grills her on her choice of underwear.
Brutalised by the court case, unable to cope with the trauma and shame, she runs away, hitch-hiking across northern Australia, barely subsisting, until she takes a job as a cook and then a deckhand on board the Ocean Thief, a crustacean fishing trawler headed for the Timor Sea.
There, in the company of four dysfunctional outcasts she begins to heal.
Ironically, as she is tossed about the waves she feels more grounded within herself.
Finally confronting the bruising experiences of the past, she begins to find her voice. “Like the net, I was unbound, muddy memories emerging unbidden and unwelcome, the weight of me dropping, ready to be sorted,” she writes.
This potent memoir is her retaliation against the many cruelties life meted out. Her escape and redemption. Battling the elements, forced to rely on and trust the motley crew on board helped to give her focus, to face the demons within and without.
A bit like her life itself, Fury jumps from place to place, from memory to memory, gradually building to the healing she seeks and deserves.
In this book about class and poverty, and the tenacity it takes to overcome trauma, the writing is sharp and beautiful, the insights unflinching and brave.