Wednesday, January 29, 2020

'The Body Lies' by Jo Baker

29 January 2020

Jo Baker’s wonderful novel ‘Longbourn’ (reviewed here in April 2014), which revisits characters and scenes from 'Pride and Prejudice' from the point of view of the Bennetts' servants, was beautifully written and cleverly constructed. Although her new novel ‘The Body Lies’ (which I have just finished reading as an unabridged audio book narrated by Julie Maisey, Deborah McBride, Sam Woolf, Simon Ludders and Imogen Church) has a completely different setting and theme, it similarly demonstrates her skill and craft as a writer. ‘The Body Lies’ is a contemporary story which uses the ‘campus novel’ approach to address some dark subjects, with a focus on violence against women. The book’s (unnamed) first-person narrator teaches a creative writing course and her story is interspersed with excerpts from her students’ work – often giving a variety of different perspectives on events they have all witnessed. Much of the book has the feel of a comic novel by David Lodge, but the underlying threat of sexual violence is carefully and sensitively handled. The novel is also about the act of writing, so the way it is written is an essential component of what it is saying. There’s a very clever, meta-textual strand running through the book but this never detracts from the way it works as an incredibly scary thriller.



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