Saturday, 15 February 2014

Review: Waiting To Be Heard, A Memoir by Amanda Knox.

Book: Waiting to be Heard

Author: Amanda Knox

Pages: 489

How Long it Took Me To Read: 2 days

Plot Summary: In the fall of 2007, twenty-year old college coed Amanda Knox left Seattle to study abroad in Perugia, Italy for one year. But that November 1, her life was shattered when her roommate, British student Meredith Kercher, was murdered in their apartment. Five days later, Amanda was taken into custody and charged by the Italian police; her arrest and the subsequent investigation ignited an international media firestorm. Overnight, this ordinary young American student became the subject of intense scrutiny, forced to endure a barrage of innuendo and speculation. Two years later, after an extremely controversial trial, Amanda was convicted and imprisoned. But in 2011 an appeals court overturned her conviction and vacated the charges. Free at last, she immediately returned home to the U.S., where she has remained silent, until now.

General Thoughts: Like thousands of people around the globe, I was deeply interested in the Amanda Knox case. I remember when in 2007 this case first made the headlines, I read about it in the papers and was shocked to think that Amanda Knox had allegedly killed her British roommate in a brutal manner. At the time, I had just moved cities, and for the first time in my life living with strangers. I had two roommates and reading about this case and talking about it's gruesome details just became something we discussed around the flat. Thankfully, none of my roommates nor me met with such a sticky end! 

But this case was interesting for so many reason, a brutal murder. A strange murder suspect- Amanda did a lot of frankly weird things when she was brought in for questioning- accusations of Satanic rituals, a sex game gone awry! 

Over the years, as the trial started and eventually as the verdict was given, I kept up with the case. When I heard there was memoir out I wanted to read Amanda's side of the story. 

Review: The book was decently written and covered not only the murder and the trial but a little of Amanda's life before moving to Italy. We got to see her life in the US and Italy before the whole mess. It helped me to think of her as a person- a young girl excited to be studying abroad- and not just an accused murderess. The book does a very good job of taking you inside Amanda's head through the whole event- from the discovery of Meredith's body to Amanda's imprisonment and trial. You can feel her sense of helplessness as well as her fear at being questioned and tried in a language that is not native to her as well as of the accusations against her. 

The other thing which this book, and a related Diane Sawyer interview that I saw on YouTube, reminded me of was a book called 'Dangerous Girls' by Abigail Haas. Just like in 'Dangerous Girls', even in Amanda's case the prosecution and the media culled out selective information about her from social media and made her sound more menacing than she is/was. For instance, a big deal was made about her nickname being 'Foxy Knoxy', which supposedly implied her wayward sexual ways. No one mentioned that this was a name given to her by her Middle School soccer team and had nothing whatsoever to do with sexual prowess or preferences! The same Myspace page from where this tidbit was picked up also mentions that she loves Harry Potter. So, how is it fair to take one bit of information about her and leave out the other, which does not further the agenda of painting this sinister and horrible picture of Amanda. This in itself, this persecution by media, is something we all should be concerned about. 

I also felt absolutely sad about everything Amanda's family went through and had to sacrifice in order to help with her defense. A middle class family had to re-mortgage their homes in order to be able to be in Italy and pay Amanda's legal fees, something which is so frightening to just think about. If this is not a middle class family's version of absolute hell, I don't know what is! 

There are parts of the book, which are just slow and repetitive. The parts about the trials and the lack of evidence were very dry. Also, this book is sort of a campaign to make Amanda seem very quirky and awkward and spaced out, while, in fact, to me, she comes across as borderline naive and stupid. For instance, in what world is sitting on your boyfriend's lap in a police station, when you have been brought in for questioning merely hours after a murder, a good idea? Would anyone with any sense display such behaviour? Similarly, is making faces at each other, in full public view, supposedly to calm down their rising panic (of which there was no other evidence) the best thing to do under the circumstances? One can argue till the cows come home about appropriate and inappropriate responses to grief and shock etc., but some of this behaviour is just plain odd. Also, call it a horrible stereotype, but aren't all Americans more predisposed to asking for a lawyer when faced with police interrogation? Amanda didn't ask for her embassy reps or for a lawyer, which to me is just sad and extremely naive! 

The truth of the night of November 1, 2007 is not for me to speculate about. However, this book and even several other articles about this case, do highlight the startling lack of any real evidence that connects Amanda to the murder. I only hope that truth and justice prevails. 

Rating: 3/5  

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