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Book Review: Waiting to be Heard by Amanda Knox (4/5)

28 May

I needed to read a memoir. It had been a really long time and memoirs are one of my favorite genres. I think A Stolen Life by Jaycee Dugard turned me off to them, but it’s been a long time and I needed to try again. And I’m really glad I did. I have a lot of memoirs on my shelf and now I’m itching to get to them!

Cover Image via

Cover Image via

Waiting to be Heard: A Memoir by Amanda Knox

Summary from Goodreads:

In the fall of 2007, twenty-year old college coed Amanda Knox left Seattle to study abroad in Perugia, Italy for one year. But that November 1, her life was shattered when her roommate, British student Meredith Kercher, was murdered in their apartment. Five days later, Amanda was taken into custody and charged by the Italian police; her arrest and the subsequent investigation ignited an international media firestorm. Overnight, this ordinary young American student became the subject of intense scrutiny, forced to endure a barrage of innuendo and speculation. Two years later, after an extremely controversial trial, Amanda was convicted and imprisoned. But in 2011 an appeals court overturned her conviction and vacated the charges. Free at last, she immediately returned home to the U.S., where she has remained silent, until now.

With all of these true crime books, there’s always a skew in the direction of who is ‘right.’ And by ‘right,’ I mean who won the court case. After Knox’s appeal case, she was ‘right.’ So I have to take what she wrote as ‘right’ because the courts ‘proved’ it was true. Do you see my skepticism here? Good. All of this aside, I liked this book a lot. Knox writes well and her story was really interesting. I could tell that her facts and references to court proceedings were well researched and augmented her memories. I found the parts where she was recalling her friends from jail were very engaging and I could tell her prison diaries helped her keep these memories fresh. Obviously there was a lot of press around this case and it was good to hear what was true and what was blown out of proportion. Overall, this was a really solid read.

I felt a little more skeptical of the beginning of the story than I did toward the end. Maybe I got wrapped up in it. A lot of it seemed to be Knox maturing. When she first got to Italy, she did a lot of dumb things that made me frustrated with her. By the end, she was more responsible and level-headed and I believed her story more readily.

Knox did a good job of portraying those around her though my favorites were those she knew in jail. Again, I think this is because of her jail diary. She did a good job of showing that these women weren’t blameless and some of them needed to be in jail, but that they had redeeming qualities and quirks the same way she did.

I liked Rafaele and I wish we’d gotten to see more of him. Because so much of the book focused on the trial, Rafaele quickly became a minor character. From the little I’ve read about him, he was pressured to say Amanda had been the killer and that he wasn’t involved but he never betrayed her like that. It’s good he didn’t or he would have had a reduced sentence instead of being acquitted!

Amanda Knox Image via NBC News

Amanda Knox
Image via NBC News

It’s hard to relate to someone living in jail, but Amanda made herself relatable. She read a lot, specifically Harry Potter, and she still had relationships with her friends and family, though they were strained. There were things that made her like any other young 20-something despite her environment. I don’t think people change completely when they’re in jail and I’m glad Amanda kept the happy side of her alive.

Knox’s memories of the crime itself seemed hazy which is what made me skeptical. Especially contrasted with her very vivid memories of her time in jail. I understand why this was with the trauma she had endured. Memory is a funny thing in times of high emotion. I, for example, don’t remember getting engaged because I was so excited. Apparently I said yes, which is good. I was getting frustrated reading about Knox’s reactions after the event and how she refused to go to American authorities when she was being questioned. She thought being a grown up meant not asking for help and this is so flawed that I was angry.

Image via Seattle PI blog

Image via Seattle PI blog

The book talked more about media influence than I expected. Knox describes how in Italy, the jury is hearing a civil and criminal case and supposed to filter which data applies to which case. On top of that, those who are chosen are hounded by media attention on the case which can influence their decisions even further. The one item that I remember from the (limited) coverage I heard was about the bathroom covered in ‘blood’ (see image). This is in fact not blood but a chemical agent used to test for blood that oxidizes and becomes pink after being applied. None of this is blood. But if I were to see this picture running in the Daily Mail and was told it was blood, I would think Knox was guilty and sick. I would be an influenced juror. There are a lot of reports that came out before the trial that were later found to be false. It reminded me a bit of the media influence in Gone Girl. We can’t always trust what we read in papers or on-line. This makes me sound like a skeptic, but more than that I’m not opposed to changing my opinion on something when facts come up later.

Writer’s Takeaway: Writing every day helped Knox cope with her situation. I think it also made her a better writer. If nothing else, it helped her keep memories very vivid when it came time to write her memoir. For anyone who thinks they might write a memoir, I would recommend a diary or some kind of daily log. Maybe you’ll never end up using it, but at least you’ll have written more. I need to stop before I talk myself into keeping a diary again.

Very entertaining and well written. I recommend this book. Four out of Five stars.

Until next time, write on.

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Related Posts:
Waiting to be Heard: A Memoir by Amanda Knox (review) | The World of a Crazed Writer
Waiting to be Heard – Amanda Knox | Una Vita Vagabonda
Amanda Knox’s Memoir: Waiting to be Heard –  A Review from Andrew Cattanach | booktopiablog