The Body Lies by Jo Baker Doubleday June 13th 2019
When a young writer accepts a job at a university in the remote countryside, it’s meant to be a fresh start, away from the big city and the scene of a violent assault she’s desperate to forget. But when one of her students starts sending in chapters from his novel that blur the lines between fiction and reality, the professor recognises herself as the main character in his book – and he has written her a horrific fate.
Will she be able to stop life imitating art before it’s too late?
At once a breathless battle-of-wits and a disarming exploration of sexual politics, The Body Lies is an essential book for our times
When does fiction cross that line, become real, so real that you don’t quite not want to believe it. Baker’s The Body Lies was a novel that brilliantly explored that scenario and was chilling and very clever in its telling.
It was Baker’s ability to write so distinctly, in the voices of her two main protagonists, the outlying characters slipped in that this gave this novel that added extra dimension.
We never knew the name of our Creative Writing Lecturer, whose marriage seemed on the brink, but who adored her small son. It was a new beginning, a chance to put the horror of an attack behind her and to discover her real self in a safe and creative environment. But life sometimes never lives up to expectations and as she was piled with more and more work, the students in her MA group seemed to jangle her nerves and you could sense an uneasiness creep in. Baker gave us the feeling that she was balanced on a knife edge, a simmering tension that something or someone could tip the precariousness of her situation at any time, it was just a matter of how and when.
Baker threw in Nicholas, slightly odd, his writing tinged with nuance and frightening reality. It was the interplay between her and Nicholas that intrigued, that drew you in, that crackled with atmosphere and tension. Would something happen, what would happen and when? What I liked was that it wasn’t one dramatic event but a build up of individual incidents, of a persons story unfolding, the nuances of their psyche slowly revealed. You wanted to read quicker but Baker made us wait, dangled titbits in front of us before a drama filled final few pages wrapped up the loose ends and gave us a deeply satisfying ending.
I admired Baker’s structure as she interwove the students writing into the narrative, used it to reveal their characteristics , the reasons for their actions and behaviours. The novel brilliantly highlighted the differing interpretations we can each have, of not only the written word but also the way in which we talk, act and are perceived by our peers.
I loved the frisson of sexual tension, jealousy, the understated yet important themes of mental health that simmered throughout. The novel thrilled but not in the way of your usual thriller, it had more about it than that. It had much more of a contemporary feel that was thought provoking and intelligent and one that I cannot recommend highly enough.
I would like to thank DoubleDay for a copy of The Body Lies to read and review and to Anne Cater at Random Things Tours for inviting My Bookish Blogspot to participate in the blogtour
About the author
JO BAKER is the author of the acclaimed and bestselling LONGBOURN and A COUNTRY ROAD, A TREE.
Her new novel, THE BODY LIES, is a thrilling contemporary novel that explores violence against women in fiction but is also a disarming story of sexual politics.
Jo Baker lives with her family in Lancashire.