Good Afternoon and a very Happy Weekend to you!
I hope you’ve had a great week and enjoyed the sunshine if it appeared where you live. I have now got a bit of a tan and have spent many a moment reading in the garden as I enjoy my breakfast. It’s been lovely!
One book that I read whilst enjoying our glorious sunshine is a book I received as a gift for my Birthday this year. It promised a ‘propulsive #metoo thriller’ which I was very keen in exploring. I’ve read a lot of #metoo books and a lot of thrillers, but I’m not quite sure that I’ve read both together, so I was intrigued.
THE BODY LIES, BY JO BAKER
‘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 ig 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’.
What a blurb! Whilst I am very much in the blurb fan club (I hate quote only book covers!) I have to say that I think this blurb kind of killed a bit of tension of this thriller… it could have been a little less to the point as you kind of already know exactly where this is going.. so not quite the suspense you’d expect. However, having watched the episode in ‘New Girl’ where Jess believes her student is writing about murdering her, I was looking forward to reading the less comical version of that.
So as I’ve explained, this novel is described as a slow paced psychological thriller, but I’m not sure I’d really describe it as either. Yes it’s a thriller, yes it’s slow paced, but I feel like it’s a literary crime novel instead, with some very exciting parts thrown in. Also – trigger warnings before you continue- and it’s pretty much all of them so please tread carefully if you feel you may not be comfortable with this review or this book.
As the blurb mentions our (nameless) main character is sexually attacked in a nearby park to her home that she shares with her partner in London. She is pregnant at the time and the attack is random. As you would understand, she feels the need to physically distance herself from what has happened and so takes a job up north as soon as her baby is a toddler and as soon as she is given the opportunity to. Unfortunately her Husband (a teacher) cannot or will not leave his post as it’s not the ‘right time’ in the school year to do so. I mean.. what a shitty husband knowing why she’s leaving?!? So our character heads off to a rural northern spot with her young son to become an English Professor at a local education centre. The home she has chosen to rent is beautiful, but remote and in the middle of nowhere. Her husband promises to travel up each weekend after work. Our character is excited about the prospect of peace, of freedom and independence, but that peace and excitement does not last long…
I interpreted the theme of this book to be about society’s blame on and normalisation of violence (sexual and otherwise) against women. Right off the bat our main character is sexually attacked in a park and when she is reading through the writing submissions of her students (I quite like the fact that the text is written in different fonts to show these), many of her male students are choosing to write what could almost be seen as fantasies… of women being attacked, killed or murdered. Women in the group are writing about subjects such as owls. Interestingly as the novel goes on, some female victim blaming is also apparent, which is frustrating but becomes resolved in the end. The main character remaining nameless I also took as a symbolic choice – it could be any woman is how I interpreted that.
Although the build of suspense was actually pretty good and the end was very dangerous and thrilling, I found the characters are a little hard to connect to to be honest and I cannot say I really felt much towards the main character. I found her quite frustrating as she just seemed to float along in life. She made hard decisions for a better life for herself and her son at first and then swiftly changed to not standing up for herself or fight for her needs in other matters such as her work life balance, her marriage and her professional reputation. It seemed she had a lack of drive.
With our dangerous character in the novel, the criminal profiling just didn’t fit..if you study criminal psychology or have watched a load of law and order SVU, you’ll know what I’m talking about. He needed more of a history than I felt we got.
The only character I enjoyed or responded to was the narrator’s son, Sammy; the little boy in our story who added much sunshine and light to an otherwise dark chilling tale.
CAN’T PUT IT DOWN RATING: 3.5/5
This was a hard one to review, as I did not put it down, I was gripped! But I also have troubles with it, the key one being the number of attacks and emotions written for our main character and this is a really sensitive one to write about so please know that I write this with difficulty and concern. I know that statistically those that have sadly been sexually assaulted tend to be assaulted more than once in their lifetimes, but I just didn’t feel right about this story. It felt dare I say it.. that the initial attack was just there to provide a back story, it didn’t feel part of the story really and therefore it didn’t sit right with me to be included.
This was of course super important for the discussion of consent so I’m quite conflicted here – but I didn’t feel that we were given too much of an insight into the emotions of the character thereafter either event and I just wasnt too sure about it. Had she emotionally disconnected and zoned out? Or was this not a conscious decision by the author? Not sure. I expected more of a raw read to be real with you.
However, this book gripped me, it’s writing is pretty fascinating and it is unlike anything else I’ve read previously, and really discussed some hardhitting themes and questions about how women are treated in society for the terrible things that happen to them. It feels very relevant to many topics and awful events in recent news.
Would definitely recommend to those interested in crime, thrillers or #metoo novels.
WASHED DOWN WITH:
So I’m on a tea buying ban as were moving (boo!), so I had to share with you the cutest dairy free afternoon tea I had with one of my best friends yesterday afternoon. This was for my birthday last year but due to covid it was postponed until now. Funnily enough this was the last place I ate at, just before the last lockdown, and at the same table and in the same chair!
It was truly delicious and honestly I just love this place, its so cosy and homely. Their selection of tea cosys are adorable. If you’re in Hull at any point, get yourself along to The Artisan on Newland Avenue (HU5). Afternoon tea such as this is to be prebooked but there is usually a great selection of cakes and eats to meet most dietary needs on their counter.
I wish you all a great upcoming week! Please get in touch in the comments below and let us know what it is you’re currently reading, and also please follow me on my socials, @papyrusandpeppermint – thats Instagram and Facebook.
Until the Next Chapter,