The Nasty Woman (Book) Club: Eggshell Skull by Bri Lee

- ELLIE STAMELOS -


Source: Allen & Unwin / ABC

Eggshell Skull refers to the legal doctrine that a defendant must ‘take their victim as they find them’ – a crime committed against an unusually vulnerable victim does not mitigate the seriousness of that crime. It is also the title of Bri Lee’s 2018 memoir, a story about fighting back against a system where the odds are stacked against you. Eggshell Skull details Lee’s personal journey from her first day of work as a judge’s associate in Queensland, to (two years later) becoming the complainant in her own legal case.


The memoir begins with Lee’s first day at her new job at the district courts of Queensland. Lee discusses the court cases she oversees in this line of work, including many cases of harassment and assault which are almost always committed against girls and women. The specifics of these cases are difficult to read; Lee spares little detail in describing the crimes and legal proceedings, providing insight into the many ways in which our legal system in Australia is not set up to provide justice for victims of sexual harassment and assault. Lee shares the toll that her work takes on her, describing feeling unsafe walking home, her mental health sharply declining, and her anger and frustration at knowing that despite the substantial amount of cases she oversees at work, the cases that make it to court represent only a tiny percentage of those committed; the data shows that most victims of sexual harassment and assault crimes never come forward.


Bri Lee at the GERTRUDE & ALICE BOOK CLUB. Source: Eventbrite

The details of Lee’s work as a judge’s associate make for a fascinating (and harrowing) memoir as it is, but Lee weaves details of these many cases into the story against the larger backdrop of the memoir; she herself is grappling with having been assaulted as a child years previously, by a friend of her brother’s (referred to in the work as ‘Samuel’). Knowing better than most that her chance at receiving true justice is slim, Lee decides to press charges against Samuel, in the hope it will allow her to begin to move through the trauma surrounding the incident. As the memoir progresses, the reader gains further insight into just how skewed our legal system truly is.


Filled with searing, righteous rage, Eggshell Skull should be read by anyone who has ever been afraid or unable to speak up or fight back. It should also be read (but probably won’t be) by the many people who claim Australia has no need for feminism (because women here already have everything they need, right?).


Eggshell Skull is not a pretty or easily digestible read, and readers should use their discretion when deciding whether this is the right memoir for them (the content has the potential to be triggering for some readers). By the same token, the memoir is ultimately about stepping back into your power and using your voice – a reminder relevant to many of us.


Each month Ellie Stamelos from The Nasty Woman Club will be reviewing popular books that look at issues and topics in the world of intersectional feminism.

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