Review: Madeleine by Kate McCann
(Bantam Press, €22.99. All royalties go to Madeleine's fund) Hardback
There's not much hard new information in Madeleine, Kate McCann's book about her daughter. But what is new is Kate's powerful and moving description of the horror she has been through, the worst nightmare that any parent can imagine. In the book she describes minute by minute that awful night when ordinary family life for her ended and the nightmare she is still living every day began.
Every parent who has ever turned around in a shopping mall or street to discover their toddler is no longer in view will empathise with her confusion, fear and then blind panic as she realised her little girl was not in her bed.
For most of us, it is over in a few minutes. The child emerges from behind a rack of clothes, grinning, or, at worst, is handed back in tears by a kindly passerby. For Kate, there was no such release. Almost as soon as she entered the apartment to check on her sleeping children, she sensed something was wrong. But it was when she saw the open window and the raised shutters that terror dawned.
"Nausea, terror, disbelief, fear. Icy fear. Dear God, no! Please no!" she writes.
Right then, in that terrible, visceral moment, Kate knew. "Life without Madeleine had begun."
During that endless night, on May 3, 2007, Kate writes how she howled, prayed and sobbed "Not Madeleine, not my Madeleine". And she describes how, many times since then, she has roared like an animal in pain and has fought the urge to swim out to sea until the water pulls her down and relieves her of her torment.
In private, she was shouting out this desire to anyone near -- "an outlet for the crucifying anguish". But for the most part, in public, the world saw a different Kate, a woman frozen in shock.
Numbed by the impossible horror of what was happening to her, the shocked Kate decided the best way to help find Madeleine was to fight the hysteria and get her message out to the world: "Help me find my daughter."
She admits she was in shock. "It's quite frightening when I see myself in those early days. To me, I look incredibly fragile and confused and lost."
But elements of a voracious media interpreted her shocked state as something worse, with some painting Kate as a "cold, emotionless woman".
The internet was the first place to erupt with scepticism about the McCanns and then the Portuguese press began to openly question their story. Kate said she "felt we had been condemned by an entire country".
But worse was to come, when both Kate and husband Gerry were declared formal suspects. People divided into "did they, didn't they" camps and armchair psychologists pronounced that Kate's composure was "definitely not normal".
As Kate said to her mother, if she had weighed another two stone and had bigger breasts, would people have been more sympathetic? Or if she had bawled in front of the cameras, as did Karen Matthews who was later charged in connection with her own daughter Shannon's disappearance?
How can any of us know how we would react if one of our children was snatched from their bed? What is the appropriate way to behave if your world has been shattered?
Despite their determination to persist with the search for Madeleine, Kate admits that the criticism was hard to bear.
"This was kicking us when we were down," she writes. In some cases, it was venomous. They received letters saying "your daughter will be getting tortured and it's all because of you".
When she first returned to England, Kate fretted over her every move. "I worried that if people saw me smile or laugh, they'd think it inappropriate," she writes.
And if she shopped in Marks and Spencer, would people think she should be buying her groceries in Lidl and putting the savings in the finding Madeleine fund?
Four years on, Kate has learned to ignore the newspaper stories and even laugh at others. When she sees the headline "McCanns' Fury" for the umpteenth time, she ruefully wonders what they are supposed to be furious about now.
And she is dealing with the enormous guilt surrounding her daughter's disappearance. "No one is going to persecute us more than ourselves," she says.
The McCanns know there can be no perfect happy ending. The best they can hope for -- and they do -- is that Madeleine will eventually be found alive, having been hidden away in some backwoods by her kidnappers.
They cite cases such as Jaycee Lee Dugard who was found 18 years after her disappearance, having borne her kidnapper two daughters. But they have also prepared themselves for an even darker ending to their story.
Any closure, no matter how sad, would be better than the uncertain limbo of their present lives, Kate says. But until some definite trace of Madeleine is found, they are adamant they will not give up their search.
So for now, they must engage with the media, as the best means for keeping Madeleine's story alive. And part of that is this book. Kate knows she is "riding a tiger" but it is a risk she is prepared to take.