Kampusch, Natascha. 3096 days

Penguin, $24.95

Natascha Kampusch was ten years old when she was abducted. Her kidnapper shoved her into a white van, wrapped her in a blue blanket and dragged her down to his cellar. Here she spent the next eight and a half years.

Did Wolfgang Priklopil always intend to catch and keep a little girl forever?

We’ll never know. He threw himself in front of a train the day Natascha Kampusch escaped. But for more than three thousand days – an entire adolescence – he manipulated her and created both physical and mental barriers around her. A vile Frankenstein, trying to mold a perfect partner with brute force, he showed occasional kindness and frequent violence, often using starvation as a means of control.

Maintaining privacy, Kampusch does not write of sexual assault; her description of the physical abuse she suffered is horror enough. Her kidnapper was an unwell man.

Recently, Natascha Kampusch has been described as having experienced “Stockholm Syndrome”, a phenomenon where hostages have apparently irrational positive feelings toward their captors. This is a diagnosis she disowns. Her understanding of her kidnapper means that she refuses to paint his picture in shades of pure evil, and even attempts some analysis of his motives.  After all, Wolfgang Priklopil was the only person she had any contact with for eight years.

Therapeutically, this may have been the book that Kampusch had to write. To read it is a more enriching experience than one may initially expect from the headlines.


Reviewed October 2010