Angel or Devil?

Revealed: The Softer Side of Amanda Knox

Amanda Knox’s new memoir doesn’t offer any new confessions or clues to her rommate’s murder. But it does show a gentler, more sympathetic side to the ‘she-devil’ seen in the tabloids.

04.30.13 5:56 PM ET

Amanda Knox’s highly anticipated book Waiting to Be Heard, published Tuesday in the United States, is not exactly a thriller.

Instead, it is a collection of carefully selected memories of her time in Perugia, Italy, where she spent four years in a sweltering prison accused of killing her British roommate Meredith Kercher. Knox does write candidly about her claims of heavy-handed interrogation at the hands of abusive Italian cops, sexual harassment by a creepy older prison guard, and her adamant denials of involvement in Kercher’s murder. But most of it has been heard before.

What’s new about the book is a close look at a person no one seems to really know—Knox herself.

The book begins with a poignant scene in which Amanda calls her parents, Edda Mellas and Curt Knox, to share the news of her trip to Italy—a memory jaded by the fact that she had no recollection of ever seeing her divorced parents sitting at a table together in her life. She also writes sweetly about her relationship with Kercher (though it’s at odds with what Kercher’s own friends told the court). She admits to doing those notorious splits in the police station’s waiting room.

She also paints a detailed portrait of how her resistance to assimilation in prison nearly caused her to take her life. Passages in which Knox contemplates suicide—and even how she would do it—will surely soften even her staunchest critics. Her scenes of sweltering in jail and the bullying and sexual advances by other inmates are also insights that few have heard before. Just as important are the details of how she felt when the prosecutors described her as a whorish “she-devil” as she sat nearby. (By then, her Italian was good enough to understand every word.) Likewise, her description of how she felt at both verdicts—the first when she was convicted and the second when that conviction was overturned—finally add words and emotions to the pictures that ran across the world’s media. 

Still, there are no new confessions here, nor any new clues about what really happened the night Kercher was brutally murdered in the house they shared. Knox admits to smoking dope, which she qualifies by writing: “Around our house, marijuana was as common as pasta.” But she glosses over that fateful night, reiterating the very vague and detail-free story that she and her co-accused former lover Raffaele Sollecito settled on after changing their stories multiple times.

Knox seems to know well the looming questions by those who still doubt her innocence, and she conveniently addresses several key pieces of evidence that tied her to the murder and were the basis of her original conviction. To qualify the drops of mixed blood found in the bathroom the two shared, Knox writes how “I scratched the droplets with my fingernail. They were dry.” She also explains her fingerprints in the knife drawer in the house by admitting for the first time that she moved the knives around. But she does omit some curious facts that could cause some to wonder what else she left out. In describing her meeting with her lawyers for the first time, she describes in great detail her impression of Carlo Dalla Vedova with “spiky hair” and Luiciano Ghirga from Perugia. But she completely omits mentioning her other lawyer at the time, Giancarlo Costa, who was also present with her at the initial interrogations and whose name is on the court documents as her lawyer.  Why leave him out?

Knox’s book may be completed, but her troubles in Italy are far from over. Her acquittal has been overturned and she will have to face a new appellate process. Her accusations against the Italian police, prison guards, and judicial system will by then be well known, even though the book may never be published in Italian. Whether that will hurt her in the new appellate process remains to be seen. 

In the meantime, Knox does a great job telling her side of the story, and she is humble enough to express some regrets. She devotes a lot of ink to her struggles with the Italian language, which she admits was her great downfall because she was both too naïve and too arrogant to admit she didn’t understand what the police were saying to her. She also takes a certain amount of blame for getting herself into the mess in the first place, by crumbling under pressure in her early interrogations and fabricating a scene that included the sounds of Kercher’s screams and the horror of being in the murder house—though she doesn’t quite explain where those images came from and why she felt compelled to wait so long to tell the truth.

Whether Knox is convincing will depend on the perspective of the reader. Those who feel she is complicit will find it lacking. Those who feel she is innocent will agree with every word.