The Fatal Gift of Beauty

The Fatal Gift of Beauty

Postby LarryK » Sun Aug 28, 2011 3:38 am

Fatal Gift of Beauty
by Nina Burleigh
Discussion and Reviews

Somewhat surprised this one hasn't been started yet. I'm not in a position to do a complete review, but will begin the discussion with some comments. The book title comes from a Lord Byron poem about Italy, so has a double meaning. The narrative ends in 2010 before the start of the appeal trial. Nina Burleigh is on the side of innocence, but this is the least satisfying book on the innocence side. The trouble is, it's clear throughout that Nina doesn't like Amanda, though they have never met. If someone were to read this book first, they might conclude, given the total picture of Amanda here, why be bothered trying to help her even if she is wrongly imprisoned? (For example, the author speculates that Amanda disliked Meredith over a rivalry concerning housemate Giacomo Silenzi, even after Amanda got together with Raffaele! Also, she makes Amanda out to be a chain-smoking pot junkie, which just doesn't fit with anything that's ever been said before by those who know her.) There's nothing said here to account for the fierce and steadfast loyalty of Amanda's friends throughout her ordeal. Nothing of the person described in Friends of Amanda or the Amanda Defense Fund. The same attitude holds for the Knox/Mellas family; Raffaele is also generally dismissed. The author is giving aid and comfort to the guilters here despite her position on their innocence.

Not that there aren't positives; there is a treasure trove of details that haven't been reported before that I know of (assuming they are accurate.) This book has by far the most complete description of Rudy's life story. Also we learn more about Mignini here. Interesting background on the cottage, though of questionable relevance. Most of all, it has the most in-depth explanation of Italian and Perugian culture, especially their attitudes towards women, and the occult, behind why Amanda was perceived as she was and doomed by that perception. The story ends without much hope. Naturally I have good hope that the appeal, with a non-Perugian judge, will turn out for the better.

If you are thoroughly versed in the case and positive about Amanda, go ahead and read this book for the new information you will gain, but don't let the negatives about her settle in you. For someone new to the case, read Murder in Italy first.
The brain is not configured in a way that makes obedience through logical, language-based propositions possible during distress and suffering. -- James Wilder, "Neurotheology and the Life Model"
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Re: The Fatal Gift of Beauty

Postby lisalou » Fri Sep 02, 2011 11:30 am

I totally agree with you on this book. Although it had some new information, particulary regarding Rudy's little crime spree prior to the murder, it felt as if she was a bit vindictive toward Amanda and a bit too sympathetic toward Rudy. We hear of the young rudy being motherless and fatherless and having suffered trauma as a child, and of having sleep disorders that cause "sleepwalking" issues. She seemed to suggest he may have been in this dissassociative state during the murder, as if he was somehow not guilty because he couldn't help himself. How about the fact that he is a liar, a thief and a rapist...how about the fact that he could easily exonorate Amanda and Raffaelle (which he originally did, funny how much his story has changed and no one is our there yelling "foul"). If I hadn't read all the other books out there on this case I'd be left wondering if the author really DOES believe in Amanda's innocence. She actually seems to buy into the bs of "odd behavior" being indicative of guilt.
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Re: The Fatal Gift of Beauty

Postby Dougm » Fri Sep 02, 2011 2:38 pm

I just finished reading this book, and I have a different take. My personal approach was not to expect the author to advocate guilt or innocence -- I don't think that was her goal or her job here, and I think if she did that, she would be accused by one side or the other of writing a biased book.

I thought it was a well done and well researched book, although Burleigh glosses over some of the important details as if she is assuming we already know about them, and that could be a problem if someone is totally new to the case. However, I think that, even though she does not say Amanda is a saint, and tells us about her negative and positive issues, an objective reader of the book would come away convinced that there is clearly not a case to convict either Amanda or Raffaele.

I did not get the impression that she does not like Amanda, and I actually got the opposite impression. But I don't think she is in the business of liking her or not liking her, the goal was to provide people with information about the case, and particularly the people involved, and what their background is, and why they might act the way they act. I think she did a nice job with that, and I found the background information about Amanda, Raffaele, Rudy, Mignini, and others quite revealing. It showed me a side of the case I was not aware of before.

In summary, I think this is a complex case with real people involved, and those people all have positives and negatives, just like all of us. I think that Amanda was portrayed as a kind, interesting, but emotionally fragile person who walked into a situation where her personality and actions were completely misinterpreted. She is shown as a bright, friendly person who craves attention, and acts pretty much like any other college girl might act with a similar personality and upbringing. And Rudy is portrayed as someone that clearly has phycological issues that have not been previously revealed, likely because of childhood abuse. That does not excuse his actions in the murder, and the author does not say it does, but it does give insight into what happened.

So that is my two cents. I think that it might be better to look at it not so much from liking Amanda or not, as from an objective look at the facts, and the author concluding that Amanda is not guilty. I do agree that she seems to believe that Amanda was more jealous of Meredith than there is evidence to conclude, but she does not think she is a killer because of that. She just says it is quite possible they did not get along that great.
When you berate someone and push them and confuse them and lie to them and convince them that they're wrong you're not finding the truth.

Amanda Knox
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Re: The Fatal Gift of Beauty

Postby Sarah » Sun Oct 30, 2011 5:36 pm

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Re: The Fatal Gift of Beauty

Postby florence » Sun Oct 30, 2011 6:02 pm

Nina announced on her Facebook page a few days ago that there is a new ending for the ebook version, and I'm just waiting for this to buy the book. From what I can tell, she portrays Italy too much as a caricature but the book still seems interesting. I think I read somewhere, perhaps here, that Nina started off writing the book believing that Amanda was guity but the more she learnt the more she came to the view that this was all wrong. Perhaps that's why there's a lingering feeling that she's not so well disposed to Amanda.
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Re: THE FATAL GIFT OF BEAUTY

Postby mays24 » Tue Dec 23, 2014 7:08 pm

I read this book in early Fall 2014. I have read too many books since on the subject to give an accurate full review. I like most that Nina initially thought Amanda guilty. I thought the same because early on it was hard to find anything to show her side of it. In the beginning I did not believe the media and prosecution could make such claims without rock hard substantiation. As I gradually found there was another side I became increasingly skeptical of the initial wild claims. I applaud that Nina approached it objectively once she started interviewing and researching for her book. She and I ended up with the same conclusion though my support is probably a bit more emphatic.
I was impressed that some of her research required quite a bit of labor in my estimation. It was informative in having quite a bit of detail I had not read before. I always think too much is made out of very small details of Amanda's relationship with Meredith. From all I've read Amanda was subjected to feminine envy frequently. My best guess is that she was oblivious to it. They may not have ever become super close but I believe they were friend's just as Amanda says. On the most part the book was well written, objective and fair.
The current book I am reading by John Follain is already in the first 140 pages terrible objective journalism. Too many well known sides of the story are left out. It is heavily slanted against the truth in my opinion.
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Re: THE FATAL GIFT OF BEAUTY

Postby Bill Williams » Tue Dec 23, 2014 11:46 pm

mays24 wrote:I read this book in early Fall 2014. I have read too many books since on the subject to give an accurate full review. I like most that Nina initially thought Amanda guilty. I thought the same because early on it was hard to find anything to show her side of it. In the beginning I did not believe the media and prosecution could make such claims without rock hard substantiation. As I gradually found there was another side I became increasingly skeptical of the initial wild claims. I applaud that Nina approached it objectively once she started interviewing and researching for her book. She and I ended up with the same conclusion though my support is probably a bit more emphatic.
I was impressed that some of her research required quite a bit of labor in my estimation. It was informative in having quite a bit of detail I had not read before. I always think too much is made out of very small details of Amanda's relationship with Meredith. From all I've read Amanda was subjected to feminine envy frequently. My best guess is that she was oblivious to it. They may not have ever become super close but I believe they were friend's just as Amanda says. On the most part the book was well written, objective and fair.
The current book I am reading by John Follain is already in the first 140 pages terrible objective journalism. Too many well known sides of the story are left out. It is heavily slanted against the truth in my opinion.

This should be discussed in the John Follain thread....

.... my reading of Follain is that he covers his own take on three larger points with his narrative.

    1) that the PLE were right in suspecting Amanda (and to a lesser extent Sollecito)
    2) that the case fell apart at trial, even the one which initially convicted them (2009).
    3) the reaction of the Kerchers and Meredith's British friends.

Follain has unique access to the prosecution and police, often including in his narrative their very thoughts. Still, at the end of the book, I got the feeling he was quite agnostic as to AK and RS's guilt. The only person on Amanda's side who Follain narrates positively is Edda Mellas, Amanda's mom.

Three unique things that Follain includes are these:

    1) that when Postal Police Battistelli looks into Filomena's room and says, "This is no burglary," Follain includes a highly prejudicial comment - "Amanda and Raffaele say nothing." This is supposed to mean that they knew why it wasn't a burglary, however Follain cannot right-out say it because he's feigning objectivity.

    2) Follain relates that when Mignini sees Amanda with her lawyer, after days of denying her one, Mignini seems resigned: we'll never know the truth now.

    3) Follain in two places has detective Marco Chiacchiera suggesting that even after the disastrous interrogation of Nov 5/6, that AK, RS and Lumumba be let go and observed further.

However, Follain's account remains a favourite of those who posit guilt. I don't know why.
    “The only way I can pay back for what fate and society have handed me is to try, in minor totally useless ways, to make an angry sound against injustice.”
    Martha Gellhorn
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