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The Body Lies: A novel by Jo Baker
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The Body Lies: A novel

by Jo Baker

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9111203,436 (3.74)19
"A dark, thrilling new novel from the best-selling author of Longbourn: a work of riveting psychological suspense that grapples with how to live as a woman in the world--or in the pages of a book--when the stakes are dangerously high. When a young writer accepts a job at a university in the remote English countryside, it's meant to be a fresh start, away from the bustle of London and the scene of a violent assault she is desperate to forget. But despite the distractions of her new life and the demands of single motherhood, her nerves continue to jangle. To make matters worse, during class a vicious debate about violence against women inflames the tensions and mounting rivalries in her creative writing group. When a troubled student starts turning in chapters that blur the lines between fiction and reality, the professor recognizes 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 cat-and-mouse game and a layered interrogation of the fetishization of the female body, The Body Lies gives us an essential story for our time that will have you checking the locks on your doors"--… (more)

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» See also 19 mentions

Showing 1-5 of 11 (next | show all)
This was just the book I had been seeking at this time. From its opening, when a young woman is sexually assaulted by a stranger on the street, it has a subtle but growing sense of menace and dread. That one event starts a chain in which the woman, now a mother of a toddler, leaves London and moves to a small English town to teach a masters course in creative writing. Her husband stays behind to keep his job. The separation strains her marriage, of course, and one of her students, a well-off full-of-himself brooding type who only writes "the truth," has taken an unhealthy interest in her.

I very much empathized with this narrator (I don't think we get her name). A lot of women could relate to her experiences, I think. In the end, she insists on being the author and protagonist of her own story. Her refusal to conform to men's expectations of how she should behave as a supporting player in their stories has a lot of negative consequences for her, but in the end, she succeeds--in a very believable way, I think. I thought [The Body Lies] was compulsively readable, tautly written, and not only a compelling commentary on how men see women, but also a cutting critique of MFA programs and academia in general. ( )
  sturlington | Oct 15, 2019 |
I really liked this literary thriller about a young mother who is a professor of creative writing. She becomes entangled with her students, leading her into personal danger. I thought there were things that Baker could have chosen to do differently that would have made the book a little more believable and a bit more suspenseful, but I was happy to go along for the ride. ( )
  japaul22 | Aug 27, 2019 |
I’ve been sitting here wondering what to say about Jo Baker’s The Body Lies. On the one hand, I adored the writing. She starts out each section with these pieces that are almost poetic in nature, no matter how brutal the scene they are describing. They are so beautiful in their descriptiveness and imagery. I found myself looking forward to each chapter break because I knew it would mean another one of those pieces. On the other hand, the story held no interest for me. Sure, I felt for the heroine and her struggles to be a single mother in a new environment with a new job. I don’t necessarily approve of the way she became so involved in her students’ lives, which is what directly leads to all the drama and suspense later in the story. I can recognize her growth as she learns to say no to an overbearing boss, but her initial inability to do so bothered me a lot. It never seemed to fit with her personality and what we know about her. So, there was a lot about the story that irked me and not a lot that made a positive impression. This reaction bothers me most of all because I like Jo Baker’s novels and wanted to like this one. Unfortunately, when the final reaction upon reading the last sentence is one of relief that the book is over, saying you like the novel is not an option, and that is where The Body Lies leaves me.
  jmchshannon | Aug 10, 2019 |
Well, this was depressing! The writing was excellent, but the plot got more and more claustrophobic. I found Nicholas glaringly suspect from the very beginning and at every interaction between him and the protagonist (is she named?) wanted to scream 'No!'. I judged her for her naivety regarding him, rather than for anything else (and shouldn't she have thought to get checked out for sexually transmitted infections?).

There is certainly a lot here to think about in terms of sexual politics, but towards the end this was put to the side for a few chapters of action/adventure and a very rapid conclusion to plot elements which had been teased out slowly up to that point. ( )
  pgchuis | Aug 10, 2019 |
I picked up this novel from the library "new fiction shelf". Thrillers are not my usual genre--they tend to be way too graphically violent for me. This one though, is not very graphic and the body count is very low.

The narrator is a young mother who accepts a teaching job at a college in rural England, as she attempts to escape the memories of an assault she suffered 3 years earlier in London. Her husband is shocked--despite the fact that they are still living in the same place--and stays at his teaching job. She and their son go. You can feel her frustration and anxiety as she learns to grapple with teaching, with graduate students, with an excessive workload and a department chair who keeps giving her more responsibilities. And then her graduate seminar gets difficult. One student, in particular, gets difficult, as his submissions begin to hit a little too close to home.

This is a very fast read (under 4 hours total), and it's interesting. Included are the submissions from her graduate student that she is reading--the different styles and topics are interesting. You can feel the hope and excitement that she feels reading each one. You can also feel the tension between the students--and her anxiety in trying to deal with it without the promised mentor--as they argue about trigger warnings, dead women as plot points, and so on. Baker does a great job with showing her frustration in being overwhelmed at work, struggling to pick up her son on time daily and be a good mom, taking the bus, the rain, having no cell service at home. And then the creepy submissions start coming in.

A fast read, a nice break from my normal reads. ( )
  Dreesie | Aug 5, 2019 |
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