"She was no one. Who she was, what she wanted, what happened afterwards; none of this mattered. She joined a legion of missing girls, whose brief appearances in newspapers and books remained uncomplicated by their past experiences of poverty, abuse or their exploitation in other kinds of work."
"condemned to a short life of misery, disease and degradation; they 'vanished forever beneath the slime of the underworld' and remained 'literally nameless and unknown,' "
"fashioned by crusading journalists and anti-vice campaigners and taken up by a society that longed for young women to remain in their traditional place, while exploiting them for their cheap and flexible labor."
Unfortunately, "the language of white slavery" didn't cover the exploitation of "black, Asian and indigenous" victims; the actual "white slavers" were also "profoundly racialised." Often women such as Lydia were somewhat idealized, while at the same time there seemed to be far less attention paid to who was responsible. There is also another, more complex matter that muddies the water: often, as in the case of one of Lydia's traffickers, Veronique Caravelli, sometimes women were both sex workers and traffickers, which seems to upset the typical understanding of victim and victimizer -- women who didn't quite fit the accepted mold of victims were most often characterized as criminals. Lydia's story played out at a time of a growing globalization of sex work, the trafficking existing on an international scale that ultimately required police forces around the world not only to be in communication with each other, but also to "establish a central authority in each country" to coordinate both national and international anti-trafficking efforts, which continued to victimize women. Obviously this is just a sort of nutshell description, and there is much, much more that I haven't even touched upon -- the role of the press, the role of social work, and so on, leaving it for the reader to discover.
At the outset the author reveals that there are "thousands of missing pieces to this puzzle," either lost, destroyed, or never made part of any historical record. Acknowledging that she had to weave "threads of imagination" into the information she discovered, she also notes that she has "followed careful rules" in doing so -- historical evidence exists for every detail offered in this story. Considering what she didn't have, she's done an excellent job here; not only is this book well researched, but the different perspectives that come to interconnect offer a more in-depth understanding of the individuals who made up part of Lydia's story as well as (quoting the dustjacket blurb) "the forces that shaped the twentieth century." I absolutely love reading history when it's written like it is here, in which an obscure figure from the past is given a voice and a life while all the while a clear picture of the world surrounding her takes shape. It is also amazing how much of this story continues to resonate in our own time, which I picked up on very early in the reading, but it is an idea runs throughout the book.
Very nicely done and very, very highly recommended.