The Family

The Family : the shocking true story of a notorious cult

3.28 (320 ratings by Goodreads)
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The apocalyptic group The Family and their guru, Anne Hamilton-Byrne - one of very few female cult leaders in history - captured international headlines throughout the 1980s and 1990s.

Hamilton-Byrne, who some followers believed was Jesus Christ, was glamorous and charismatic - and, many allege, very dangerous. From her base in a quiet suburb, she recruited wealthy professionals to join her cult, including doctors, lawyers, nurses, architects, and scientists. She acquired children and raised them as her own, bleaching their hair blonde to make them look like siblings, and her group became surrounded by rumours of LSD use, child abuse, and strange spiritual rituals.

In 1987, police swooped on The Family's lakeside compound and rescued children who claimed they were part of Anne's future master race. The children recounted terrible stories of near starvation, emotional manipulation, and physical abuse. But Anne could not be found, sparking an international police hunt that involved Scotland Yard, Interpol, and the FBI. Could they bring Anne to justice?

Today, the elderly Anne has an estate estimated to be worth millions, with only one minor criminal conviction to her name. Her few remaining followers attend her nursing-home bedside.

How did such a notorious group come to flourish? How did Anne maintain a hold over her followers? And why was she never fully brought to justice?

Drawing on revelatory new research, including interviews with survivors, The Family tells for the first time in full the strange and shocking story of one of the most bizarre cults in modern history.
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Product details

  • Paperback | 288 pages
  • 153 x 234 x 21mm | 410g
  • Carlton North, Australia
  • English
  • 1925228681
  • 9781925228687
  • 84,413

Review quote

'Everyone loves a good cult story. And they don't come much better. This is the gripping story behind one of the strangest, most fascinating episodes in Australian history.' * GQ * '[A] compelling account of one of Australia's most notorious cults ... The authors trace the extraordinary life of a woman who operated "at the edges of human belief".' * The Saturday Age * 'A powerful work of investigative journalism ... pieced together in exacting detail' * Reading Matters * 'It's a remarkable [story]: hair-raising, unfathomable and deeply disturbing.' * Irish Independent * 'Immaculately researched ... This important book looks at how (and asks why) these abuses happened, defying the cult's motto: "unseen, unheard, unknown".' * Readings * 'Harrowing but humane. An extraordinary story, impeccably researched.' * Martin McKenzie-Murray * 'The Family is remarkably clear-sighted. The writers have a gift for temperate yet compelling prose that unflinchingly reveals the delusions and unreflective righteousness of much of what emerged from the counterculture. In this book, the best of what journalism should be -- honest, unsentimental, incisive -- is combined with the craft and storytelling skills of born writers.' * Christos Tsiolkas *
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About Chris Johnston

Chris Johnston is a senior writer for The Age and Sydney Morning Herald, based in Melbourne. He has been covering developments related to The Family for several years. Rosie Jones is an award-winning writer, director, and editor. Her most recent credits include the feature documentary The Triangle Wars (Best Australian Documentary, Antenna Documentary Festival 2011), Westall '66: a suburban UFO mystery and Obsessed with Walking, about the Booker-nominated writer Will Self. She has edited numerous documentaries, including James Cameron's feature documentary, DeepSea Challenge 3D, and the multi-awarded short docs Queen of the Desert and My Brother Vinnie.
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Rating details

320 ratings
3.28 out of 5 stars
5 14% (46)
4 25% (80)
3 39% (125)
2 18% (56)
1 4% (13)
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