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.
The plot description above sounds like a typical domestic thriller, but this book surprised me. It was much more introspective. Our lead is assaulted one night while pregnant, and almost raped. She makes it away, but suffers trauma from the assault. A few years later, she can barely handle living in the city where she was attacked, and leaps to take a job teaching at a countryside college. Her husband, who was not consulted about this, is less thrilled.
She ends up moving out to the country alone with her child, while the husband visits on weekends. Cue aforementioned creepy student and tension and suspense.
The book ended up being an interesting meditation on sexism, trauma, and moving on. I realize that makes it sound like a bit of a slog, but it went really fast in the plot Baker put together. Plus it poked fun at creative writing students doing MFAs, which is just…evergreen. j
The themes might be a little ham handed, but it was so well-written I didn’t care. There was also a line that hit so hard it bounced around my head for days after. I’m not repeating it here because it’s impossible to do without tossing spoilers, but it conveyed this hopeless practicality of being a woman dealing with male violence that felt so real.
TW for sexual assault.