The Life and Times of Calamity Jane

Elephant Girl: A Human Story - Jane Devin
Update: 3-7-14 I read quite a number of biographies and autobiographies though I seldom review them, if they engage my interest I usually become too involved to give an unbiased review. I also read books on survivors of Shoah, so I am not without sympathy to great suffering as some have tried to claim. I found out today that the author is using my review as an example of what she and others believe to be "spiteful anti-author" sentiment.

My review stands. I didn't like this book and the world did not end and Devin still sells her book. /End update.

I wanted to find something in this rambling, defeatist, black cloud of words that was the least bit uplifting, inspiring but there is nothing and nothing pretty much sums up Jane's life.

Jane sets out to tell us the story of a life, her life, marked by violence and neglect. I wanted to feel something for her, especially for Jane the child, but her writing was flat and devoid of any feeling, her litany of abuse, physical and verbal, read like a grocery list and too often I would find myself questioning Jane's lack of reaction and lack of emotion. She just seemed to wander through her life waiting for something bad to happen and until it did she was incapable of moving forward or sideways or backwards or at all.

Her dreary, passionless recitation was not helped by a rather uncertain timeline, it was hard to tell if only days had passed or weeks or months. In the later part of the book when Jane told parts of her story in flashbacks it became even more confusing. By this point I had ceased to care much and just grimly read on wanting only to finish and be done.

It's never good when you find yourself so out of sympathy with the victim. There were times when her actions or lack of them were so out of tune with what she was writing that some cynical part of my brain was wondering if she was conducting some sort of weird experiments so she could record them later in a story.

When I finished I was left feeling that Jane really hadn't changed much. She was still making a career out of being a victim only now she was writing about it instead of just making notes for later. I know that seems harsh but it's what I came away with.

I also came away with the desire to thank my late mother for all her love, advice, and encouragement, if I expressed a desire to do something she almost always was pushing me out the door to go and do it, and to thank my best friend's late mother for the words I've lived by most of my adult life. `There are worse things in life than being alone.'

Being alone with this book was one of them.