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Reviewed: 3,096 Days by Natascha Kampusch, Penguin

3,096 daysNatascha Kampusch was just 10 years old when she was snatched on a Vienna street and imprisoned in an underground dungeon. Eight years later she sprinted to freedom. The world was mesmerised by her story, the depredations she suffered, the suicide of her captor and her unquenched will to survive. It has taken her four years of recovery to write this fascinating book and the young woman who emerges is dignified, thoughtful and wise beyond her years.

Wolfgang Priklopil locked her in a five square metre cell behind a metre-thick concrete door. When she was older she was occasionally allowed up to do the housework, but always half-naked. Bizarrely, Priklopil’s mother used to come and stay with him in the house, not knowing of the wretched captive far below her. Natascha was beaten and starved, and clearly molested too, but she refuses to write about this aspect, begging privacy from what she has found to be a very prurient world.

It has been an unspeakably difficult road to recovery: she has battled the police who bungled the investigation into her disappearance, and faced down a public who wanted a broken victim, not a defiant, self-possessed survivor. (Helpful people sent her their old clothes and offered her jobs cleaning their houses. When she refused she was labelled ungrateful.) But recover she has, as she writes ‘What I have experienced also gives me strength: I survived imprisonment in my dungeon, freed myself and remained intact. I know that I can master life in freedom as well. And this freedom begins now, four years after 23 August 2006. Only now can I put the past behind me with these pages and truly say: I am free.’

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