Mary Fielding belonged to a normal family, with a normal life, in a normal New Zealand town. That was until one night, when police knocked on her front door and arrested her husband for sexual indecency. What seemed to her like a simple case of mistaken identity would result in a two and a half year legal battle with the courts to try and clear his name.
Accusation is Mary’s story of a wife’s worst nightmare, when her husband is accused of masturbating in his car in front of two young girls. Written chronologically, the book takes us step by step through every detail of the Fielding’s financial and emotional struggle. The book focuses on the problems of dealing with a justic system that Mary came to see as “deeply flawed and shockingly unjust”.
The writing in this book is simple and matter of fact. An aspect no doubt assisted by Jane Westaway, writer of Reliable Friendly Girls, which won the best first book award at the 1997 New Zealand Post First Book Awards. Her influence results in a strong, straightforward approach that is very effective. Nice short sentences and simple phrases like “it made me angry” and “I was upset” really worked to express the genuine emotion of the writer, without getting over the top.
The great thing about this book is that it is so honest. Mary tells the story solely from her perspective, and we get painstaking details of exactly what her family went through. This takes an extraordinary amount of courage. One example in particular is when Mary admits that she was unsure if her husband was telling the truth, and unsure of her decision to support him, whether he was lying or not. It really makes you think, what would I do if it happened to me? That’s what makes this story so believable.
The last few chapters waffle on a bit about personal growth and ‘all you have to do is believe’ type stuff, which came across as totally self-indulgent, and which I, as a reader, could definitely have done without. But, as this would have been a life changing experience, I guess she deserves a little reflection.
If you have had any doubts about the NZ Criminal Justice System, then this will no doubt cement them. Although there are many great policemen, lawyers and judges out there, and many who feature in this book, the system itself still remains wholly unjust. If nothing, this book certainly opened up my eyes to that.
BY MARY FIELDING WITH JANE WESTAWAY
Publisher: Longacre Press $29.95