Wednesday, 6 September 2017

Book Review: The Fact of a Body: A Murder and a Memoir by Alexandria Marzano-Lesnevich

Title: The Fact of a Body: A Murder and a Memoir

Author: Alexandria Marzano-Lesnevich

Pages: 336

Publication: 18th May 2017 by Pan Macmillan

TW: sexual abuse, paedophilia

1 line synopsis: a weaving of a true crime case and a memoir looking at how law is sometimes not so clear-cut and objective.


This is a difficult book to review because it is so personal to the author, and so I would like to begin with saying I in no way want to demean the author’s own experiences or the crime being investigated. Both cases are tragedies. It was clearly an important book for the author to write and I respect that immensely.

First off, be warned: there are some very graphic and brutal descriptions of the murder concerned and paedophilia. They are incredibly difficult to read but this was not the reason I found this book such a struggle to finish.

The layout of this book - as a true crime but also a memoir - is incredibly interesting and new, and to begin with definitely works. I was sucked into both stories and immediately wanted to know more. I also really enjoyed the prose; it was poetic but clear, and drew me in further. This did however jar a bit when it came to the true crime, because the author states that some of the details have been made up by her based on her assumptions of the characters of the people concerned, or purely for artistic style.

From the 50% mark onwards, the book began to feel more and more haphazard, like the only person who could follow the thread of thought and connection between the two stories was the author herself. It became more of a struggle to understand where we were in terms of the timeline of either story and I felt it became more emotionally raw at the sacrifice of coherence.

I did appreciate some of the more philosophical aspects, such as law being more personal than some would believe and for example the passages including the quotes below:

“If we acknowledge only the happy things, maybe that’s all there will be”

“What you see in Ricky may depend more on who you are than who he is”

In the end, I gave this book 2 out of 5 stars, and again, that isn’t to demean either of the stories involved in this narrative. I think the idea of a murder and memoir blended together could work, it’s just in this particular book it wasn’t executed in a way that I could fully follow or enjoy.