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SECRET LIFE – book review unabridged version


by Linda Christina Redgrave


It was with great reservation that I decided to read and review the book, Secret Life the Jian Ghomeshi investigation, by Kevin Donovan. My first encounter with this book was in Indigo quickly skimming to the parts pertaining to myself, and hesitantly looking with one eye closed. This was not something I cared to relive or revisit through someone else’s words but there was a curiosity nagging at me that I couldn’t ignore. After quickly reading those words in the store, I wanted to know more about what this book was about and what the author’s intention was when writing it. After purchasing the book I very quickly got my answer.

Kevin Donovan’s book SECRET LIFE is mis-titled in my eyes. A more fitting title for this book about Jian Ghomeshi’s supposedly secret life, would be, KEVIN DONOVAN, the Ghomeshi Investigations. Its casual narrative seemed to portray more about journalism and defending the framework of a story, than a tell all about Jian Ghomeshi’s secret life as the title seems to characterize. I found the book somewhat redundant because most of the stories and the accounts of the trial have been published or aired in the media and are by no means new. By now most of us have heard about Canada’s biggest sexual assault trial, read the stories leading up to the trial, read about or watched all the tweets and news coverage during the trial and heard about all the conversations afterwards.

I can only surmise this book about Ghomeshi was really meant to be about Donovan. The only information new to me in this book was about the challenges Donovan went through as a investigative reporter building a story, the difficulties he had working with Brown, and some additional stories from victims that I hadn’t read about. I learned more about Kevin Donovan’s secret life. One day I’d like to hear Jesse Brown’s version of the events leading up to the news release and his take on working with Donovan.

Donovan and Brown worked together investigating the story about Ghomeshi. The book depicts several differences between the two and and in once instance Donovan wanted to encourage victims to disclose their identities while Brown did not. Donovan was later told by a victim that using their story for his commercial gain was going to cause them to feel re-victimized. I shared those sentiments. Was this even a consideration before he decided to write it? He justified it in the book stating he doesn’t partner with sources. It seems Donovan, who often speaks about being a father, wasn’t concerned with re-victimizing women. After all, the stories had been published in The Star. It seems apparent to me now that he needed to do this to fill his book with content but it was at our expense. His gain from our pain.

It seemed clear to me that Donovan, although reporting on sexual assaults, had not taken the time to inform himself about victims of such crimes. He was interviewing with his own bias and lack of knowledge. In his book he mentions asking victims why they didn’t just leave, or just stop Ghomeshi, because the readers would want to know this. These are rape myths. I would have thought that Donovan, an award winning journalist, investigative reporter and editor, could have educated himself on trauma informed inquiry and behaviour and memory as it relates to sexual violence. In the book there are many instances of this lack of understanding. One in particular stands out for me when Donovan wonders if someone may have convinced me to change my story about kissing in the car because without the kissing, the sexual assault is just assault. For someone who is trauma informed, this would have been an opportunity to educate people about rape myths around memory. Instead he fed the beast. . Memory and trauma are fragmented and not linear. That is a fact.

Jesse Brown, although younger than Donovan, seemed to have the right idea from the start.

In my first few moments of reading Secret Life in Indigo, the first thing I noticed were factual errors. Not just one but a few. I wasn’t quite sure what the rationale was when they were written, but wrong they were. I never went on a “real date” to a concert, nor did I dial a cab as described amongst other things that weren’t right. Donovan writes about a response I made in court when answering a question asked by Henein, “he twists things” I said that because it was true. This apparently took him by surprise. This begs the question, if my experience was incorrect, isn’t it possible that there are other errors?


After reading this book I wasn’t sure why it was written. It wasn’t an expose, and didn’t describe anything new other than a glimpse into the life of an investigative reporter. A friend asked me if she were to read it, would I think she might feel the same. Yes. If you live in Canada and keep up on the news, this book is redundant. If however, you want a glimpse into the life of an investigative reporter, then I would suggest giving it a read.

It does make me question, if many years ago York University had put in place a solid sexual assault policy, would there even be a book.

2 out of 5 stars

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