Book Reviews / Books

Review: Eggshell Skull – Bri Lee

01.05.19

Eggshell Skull by Bri Lee

Shortly before the end of last year, I asked my followers on Instagram which books had stood out to them in 2018; and I was intrigued to see that Eggshell Skull by Bri Lee was mentioned a number of times. I already had a copy of the book lying on my bookcase in my apartment, and as the January pick for my Gertrude & Alice book club, I began reading it on the eve of the first weekend of the new year.

An important and inspiring memoir that takes a candid and close look at not only Australia’s justice system, but also the way in which it routinely fails women, Eggshell Skull is a relevant read in the wake of the #MeToo movement.

While the focus of the story is on the author’s year spent as a judge’s associate in Queensland; interwoven with the plot is the story of Lee’s own sexual assault as a child, and the eating disorder and low self-esteem she suffers as an ongoing consequence.

It’s impossible to read Eggshell Skull without feeling a rising sense of anger against the many repeated injustices that fall through the legal system on a daily basis; and Lee voices her displeasure and resentment brilliantly throughout her memoir. It, too, is impossible to query why the first guilty verdict Lee witnesses after endless defendants are found not-guilty is when the complainant is a man.

And so to the second part of the memoir. Despite – or indeed perhaps because of – a year spent witnessing the inequity of female victims of sexual assault, Lee musters up the courage to press charges against the perpetrator of a family friend who sexually assaulted her as a child. Her experience makes for a pacy, frustrating and page-turning read, as she finds herself on the other side of the legal system to that which she is used to.

Eggshell Skull is an eloquent exploration of the legal system and the law; of innocence and guilt, of what is right, and what is fair. The ending of this moving memoir is as powerful as the story that lies therein, and I have no doubt that Eggshell Skull will incite its readers to demand better justice for women the world over.

About Eggshell Skull

EGGSHELL SKULL: A well-established legal doctrine that a defendant must ‘take their victim as they find them’. If a single punch kills someone because of their thin skull, that victim’s weakness cannot mitigate the seriousness of the crime.

But what if it also works the other way? What if a defendant on trial for sexual crimes has to accept his ‘victim’ as she comes: a strong, determined accuser who knows the legal system, who will not back down until justice is done?

Bri Lee began her first day of work at the Queensland District Court as a bright-eyed judge’s associate. Two years later she was back as the complainant in her own case.

This is the story of Bri’s journey through the Australian legal system; first as the daughter of a policeman, then as a law student, and finally as a judge’s associate in both metropolitan and regional Queensland-where justice can look very different, especially for women. The injustice Bri witnessed, mourned and raged over every day finally forced her to confront her own personal history, one she’d vowed never to tell. And this is how, after years of struggle, she found herself on the other side of the courtroom, telling her story.

Bri Lee has written a fierce and eloquent memoir that addresses both her own reckoning with the past as well as with the stories around her, to speak the truth with wit, empathy and unflinching courage. Eggshell Skull is a haunting appraisal of modern Australia from a new and essential voice.

About Bri Lee

Bri Lee is a writer and editor whose work has been published in The GuardianGriffith Review, the VICE network and elsewhere, and she regularly appears on ABC Radio. In 2016 Bri was the recipient of the inaugural Kat Muscat Fellowship, and in 2017 was one of Griffith Review‘s Queensland writing fellows. She is the founding editor of the quarterly print periodical Hot Chicks with Big Brains, which has published nonfiction about women and their work since 2015. In 2018 Bri received a Commonwealth Government of Australia scholarship and stipend to work on her second book at the University of Queensland. She is qualified to practice law, but doesn’t.

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