The Little Prisoner


The Little Prisoner: a memoir (how a childhood was stolen and a trust betrayed) by Jane Elliot – First Published in Britain in 2005, republished in the U.S. in 2008. It was a British #1 Bestseller. I acquired this book through the LibraryThing Early Reviewers Club. This is the third book I have received and reviewed for LibraryThing.com.

First, I should say that I have read this book in its entirety. Jane Elliot (a pseudonym for her protection and that of her family) was inspired to write by reading Dave Pelzer’s extremely popular book A Child Called It. Pelzer’s book has been popular for several years now in the libraries I have work in, particularly amongst teenagers. That being said, I have not read that work. Five years ago, a coworker read the book and described it to me in such detail that I have had no desire to read it.

This newer book, Little Prisoner, shows me why I have not read Pelzer’s book. It is HORRENDOUS the way people treat one another. Child abuse of all kinds is not every right, and it was not just child abuse in this book. Everyone is threatened with violence by Elliot’s stepfather (who is only 14 years older than her) – and we come to find out that it is just not her stepfather, but her some of her half brothers who learn it from their father. If people even seem to threaten that they will tell authorities, police, etc, her stepfather promises violence, and he follows through. The idea of “family” is very twisted here. I usually like memoirs, and I have read some involving abuse, such as Sickened by Julie Gregory. That said, Little Prisoner is very well-written. It is clear and precise – from the author’s confusion from the so-called “games” her stepfather played, to the fact that her mother acted protective at times, but chose to look away most other times.

In the introduction to this edition, which I really enjoyed, Elliot rightfully “suspects” that there are two categories of one, those from “stable, happy homes, who can’t understand how any one can abuse child” (xii), and two, those who “suffered something similar themselves and find some comfort in discovering they are not alone” (xii). I am of the first category. As I read this, I constantly wondered how anyone could ever do this to any one. As it comes out during the court trial years later, this was beyond child abuse, it was about “fear and control”. I don’t understand, really, how her stepfather and all of his accomplices could have done all of these things, and continued to do them. I lost my infant son to heart defects, and would give nearly anything to have him here to hold. To me, it seems that a lot of abusers take children for granted and then don’t treat them with the love, respect and attention they want and need. I just don’t understand it.

I applaud the author for sharing her story, and hope that her family, with her husband and precious children, is doing well.

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