In her early 20s when she entered into a nine-month rotation of coerced massages and far worse on the island and back in Manhattan, Ransome was older than many of Epstein’s victims — ensnared, she theorizes in her new memoir, to help paint a veneer of adult consensuality over his serial sexual offenses. A decade after her escape, emboldened by other legal action against Epstein and Maxwell, the author sued them, receiving an undisclosed settlement in 2018. (She is among those questioning that his death in prison a year later was suicide.) She has called her book, which helps fill out a rapidly growing body of published literature and documentaries about Epstein’s crimes, “my day in court.” It’s also her afternoon on the analyst’s couch: identifying the psychological roots that she believes made her more susceptible to abuse.

Ransome identifies some eerie commonalities with her surviving antagonist. Her maternal grandfather was a Scottish baron and contemporary of Maxwell’s father, whose own mysterious death made international news. Both families had adolescent sons who were incapacitated in road accidents and succumbed to their injuries years later. But the Maxwells’ emotional hardships were cushioned by money and proximity to power. Ransome’s parents, who worked in advertising and lived under apartheid, argued endlessly (or “rowed constantly,” as Ransome writes in a misjudged Anglicism) until they split up.

Her mother descended into alcoholism, once passing out with her legs protruding from the dog kennel, and was intermittently homeless. One of her lovers raped Sarah when she was only 11, she writes, and she was raped again at 14, by an older neighborhood boy who was accused but faced no consequence. “Trauma has an odor,” Ransome believes, and Epstein and his emissaries picked up the scent like bloodhounds. She compares herself several times to a stallion, eventually outrunning them, rearing her head in rebellion.

Now in recovery, Ransome describes bouts of her own drinking and drug use; desperate to make ends meet and get through college, she also worked unhappily as an exotic dancer and escort. Epstein, to whom she was introduced by a young female recruiter she met in a nightclub, seemed to offer a more refined form of patronage, though Ransome got an inkling that not all was well when she observed him and a girlfriend having sex in full view of other passengers on his private plane, nicknamed the “Lolita Express.”

As if anxious to lend it credence and weight, Ransome pads her account liberally and maybe unnecessarily with quotations from poetry, psychology books and the press. More powerful are jarring first-person anecdotes of Frédéric Fekkai cutting her hair and Sergey Brin, the Google founder, showing up at dinner with his then-fiancé, Anne Wojcicki. That even powerful people failed to blow the whistle on a clearly depraved scene is a puzzle of group behavior that maybe only literature can begin to address.

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