Words || Katelyn Free
The cover and first pages of Eggshell Skull are littered with praise and adoration for author Bri Lee’s debut autobiography. It promises profound change and substantial impact. Impossible to put down, emotionally affecting and inspiring. The cynic in me was annoyed at the clear marketing ploy taking up real estate on the beautiful cover’s aesthetic and assumed the hype was unfounded. To my abject surprise, the novel did exactly what it said on the box.
Eggshell Skull recounts author Bri Lee’s first years out of university. Beginning as a law graduate taking on a role as a judge’s associate in metropolitan and district Queensland and ending with her entering the legal system a complainant herself.
The novel weaves through the some of the most difficult human experiences with a natural ease that leads you to empathise with Lee on a deeply personal level. As she divulges her intimate struggles with mental health and trauma she does so in a way that you need not to have experienced similar events to sympathise with her, you need only be human.
While not framed in an overtly feminist light, Lee gracefully delves into the battles unique to the female experience providing a beautiful form of context for the theoretical issues we regularly engage with on a political level. Her insights into the legal system and its support of victims while perhaps being heavy handed at times, were entwined in her recounting in such a raw way as to not alienate the reader, even if you had little to no understanding of the court systems.
The book’s pacing is consistent, moving slightly slowly in the second half, but to greater literary effect as the subject matter Lee deals with moves away from the high drama court scenes of the memoir’s early years. Lee’s story is so affecting that it’s gripping in a way that doesn’t need shock value or twists to keep you engaged.
The full breadth of the issues Lee engages with in this book aren’t necessarily fully realised by virtue of the story being told through a single lens. But this is an unavoidable consequence of a memoir, the issues come second to the individual story. And Lee’s story is honestly enough. It carries the issues well, providing jarring experiences to test out theoretical view points on, challenging her reader to engage and listen.
As I finished Eggshell Skull I didn’t have the sobbing revelation I did at the end of the Book Thief when I was 15. There wasn’t necessarily overflowing emotion that I couldn’t contain. But I did feel deeply affected. I felt educated. I felt glad I had listened to Lee’s story.
Warning: The novel contains themes of sexual abuse and trauma.