51wTNZH99oLWhen fourteen-year-old Dianne Lake encountered the enigmatic Charles Manson and his ‘Family’, little did she know the huge effect it was going to have on her life. Now, fifty years later, Dianne is telling her story – a first-hand story of her experiences with one of the most heinous characters in American history, and what a story it is…

Over the years, I have read several books about Charles Manson, including one written as a result of interviews with the man himself. Where this book differs, though, is that it is affording us a first-hand account of someone who lived through the free-love era of late-1960s America as part of Manson’s ‘Family’.

The first third of the book details Dianne’s early life, which was far from conventional. Born into a seemingly typical family, secrets begin to rear their heads and soon, her parents make the decision to ‘drop out’ of normal society. This action set the tone for the rest of Dianne’s life, as they moved from place to place, taking drugs and living in several communal habitations. When she made the decision to go it alone, I found it hard to remember that she was only fourteen at the time. It was clear to see that she craved some normality and would have loved to have had the opportunity to attend school and make something of herself. The actions of her parents, though, were the first steps into pushing her towards Manson.

When we finally meet Charlie Manson, there is no immediate indication of what is to come. Initially, Dianne gets what she yearns for – a family who look out for each other. As time progresses, though, Manson’s true nature begins to emerge and it is interesting to read that, with hindsight, Dianne wished that she had noticed these signs and got away whilst she had the chance. Such was Manson’s pull, though, and the fact that she felt she was in love with him, she remained in his clutches until he was arrested. It was difficult to read about the abuse she endured during her time with the ‘Family’ and how her skewed idea of what was normal didn’t give her the impetus to run away.

If you read this hoping to find out more about the Tate/LaBianca killings, then you are going to be disappointed as this is not the purpose of the book. Dianne was not part of the atrocities but became aware of them after the fact. Repulsed by what she found out and realising the true nature of the man she adored, it became a relief when they were finally picked up by the authorities and she could start to remove traces of the cult from her life. It was pleasing to read how Dianne managed to turn her life around, thanks to the kindness of a police officer and also how she found happiness with a husband and the real family she had always longed for.

Member of the Family is a fascinating, well-written read and I sincerely hope that Dianne continues to live a happy life, free from memories of the past.

With thanks to Rosie Margesson and Harper Collins UK for my copy of the book.