My James – Ralph Bulger

You will see from my book list that I didn’t finish this book.  This has nothing to do with the quality of the writing, although we will come onto that later, it had everything to do with this being a heartbreaking book that I couldn’t bring myself to finish.  I barely got a third of the way through.

Unless you have been living in a cave in the middle of nowhere for the last 20ish years, you will know the story of James Bulger, the toddler who was abducted and brutally murdered and tortured by two 10 year old boys.  The case made the headlines around the world.  People seemed incapable of believing that such young boys could commit a crime of such depravity, yet they did.

‘My James’ is told from the point of view of James’ father Ralph.  The book is listed as ‘with Rosie Dunn’.  The blurb in the book describes Rosie as a ‘freelance journalist and author who previously worked as a crime reporter for The Sun newspaper.  What I suspect has happened is that Ralph Bulger has told his story in his own words to Rosie and she has sown the story together.  This comes across in the way the book is written.  You don’t get a sense of Ralph’s voice.  There are phrases that you can imagine him saying but you don’t get the sense that he has written the book.

That said, it is well put together and you did get an idea of the family, their situation and their life before this horrific murder.  Put simply, they were an ordinary working class family.  There are many families like them up and down the country.  Had this murder not have occurred they would have lived a normal life, never having hit the headlines.

What comes across very clearly is the effect that the murder had on the family, the depth of their grief and heartbreak, so much so that I felt like a voyeur.  I felt uncomfortable looking this closely at somebody else’s suffering.  I wanted to comfort them and make it all better but of course, nobody can do that.

The book went into graphic details about James’ injuries and that bothered me a lot.  I couldn’t help but think about what he had gone through and how the parents felt knowing how his last hours were spent.  I felt angry, helpless , frustrated and impotent to do anything to change the situation.  Of course I couldn’t change the situation but oh how I wanted to!

I got as far as the court case and I just couldn’t read any more.  The Bulger’s life was starting to unravel, Ralph’s grief was understandably insurmountable and the though of what that poor little boy had suffered was too much to comprehend.

I couldn’t recommend this book unless you have a very strong stomach and you are able to detach yourself fully.  I couldn’t and that was why this book ended up on my ‘abandoned’ pile.

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