The Body Lies

Pub Date:   |   Archive Date: 06 Nov 2019

Member Reviews

This book isn't what I thought it was. In both plot and supposed genre. It's slow, it's flat, the plot is weak, and the characters are not well developed. Basically, to call it a thriller is absurd. It's the opposite of thrilling. 

Thank you Netgalley for the advanced reader copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.
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Enjoyable on multiple fronts, with a side of kind of meta thrown in to tease up the intellect a bit.
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I would neither describe this book as a thriller or a suspense novel. At least not in the traditional sense. The book starts with a fairly simple, mild assault that even three years later is effecting the protagonist enough to move to a new town. Most of The Body Lies revolves around the woman's new life teaching creative writing at a University. Throughout the course of the year her student, Nicholas, who only writes "the truth" starts to behave strange and writes very dark material. After the Christmas holiday the protagonist's life is completely turned upside down. 

While I do not agree with the description of this novel because it leaves an idea of what type of novel it should be, I did enjoy it. The story is told mainly in first person but is interspersed with the writing of her students. It you want something a little different grab this one.
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Fair warning, The Body Lies begins with a sexual assault. 
The Body Lies had me from the first page and I finished it in a day. It's well written and felt familiar, but entirely new at the same time. 
Though I don't recall seeing the name of the main character, this young woman is assaulted while pregnant, and after a few years, she accepts a position at a college and takes her young son to experience a new, safe life, away from the city where she was assaulted. She runs a creative writing group for master's students, and one of them becomes troubled and obsessive. He begins sending her pieces that blur the lines between reality and fiction in unsettling ways. 
Unsettling would be a word I'd use to describe this book. I've blessedly never had anything happen to me nearly as terrible as she has, yet I still felt the need to check my locks as I read particularly anxiety inducing scenes. 

*I received a copy of this book from netgalley in exchange for my review. 3.5/5
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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.
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The story opens with our unnamed protagonist being assaulted by a strange man. She is pregnant and cannot fight back, but it doesn't go further than a punch in the face. The incident lingers in her mind until years later she lands a job outside of London in a university. She moves, hoping for a quiet and safer life, even if her husband can't follow. Then one of her creative writing students starts writing what he calls "the truth," only it's about her and it isn't true at all.

This book was tense. I felt my muscles tighten throughout the entire book. Baker really exposed the daily life of a woman: ignoring hands placed on the small of our backs, on our arms, on our shoulders, smiling at men who open the door just so we have to slip past and maybe touch them. How we say yes to unreasonable requests and apologize all the damn time for everything. She explores the psychological damage women experience at the hands of men, how it can follow us for years, and how men don't understand this.

I had such an overwhelming emotional response to this book, I felt violated myself as I read, on edge. I also can't help but wonder how a man would read this, at least the first ¾ths of the book (after that it gets a little crazy), how he would react if he would notice something was wrong if he would tense up as I did.
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There's just one word that comes to mind when I think about this book:  WOW.  Baker has perfectly captured what it is to be a first-year teacher and also what it can mean to be a woman in academia.  The protagonist was dynamic and sympathetic, and the plot and conflict were interesting, original, and well-paced.  It was different from "Longbourne" but just as good.  I have recommended this novel to all my friends!
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I had a really hard time with this book. Difficult to stay engaged. Very slow pace. Not much character growth. I'd expected more with the plot, as it's supposed to be a thriller. But it was quite mild in comparison to others I've read (and this is one of my fave genres to read, so I've real a lot). Things felt disjointed for a lot of the story.
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Part literary thriller, part campus satire, and firmly situated within the #MeToo and trigger warning era,  The Body Lies is one of those books that seems too tricky to pull off, but author Jo Baker does, and with aplomb. After a gripping prologue scene depicting a woman lying near death in a snow covered wood, Baker abruptly changes gears by introducing the unnamed narrator as she experiences a violent physical assault outside her London home while heavily pregnant with her first child. In the aftermath, the baby is found to be unharmed and the narrator, an author living with her schoolteacher husband, Mark, claims she is fine as well, but when the novel fast forwards to three years later, she has accepted a job as a creative writing instructor at a university in the north of England and is moving with her now toddler son Sam to a remote cottage there where she hopes she can finally put this trauma behind her.

The book then settles into what i found a very entertaining section about her life as a single parent and novice writing instructor dealing with a handsy department head who constantly dumps more work her way and with her writing students and their projects, which are effectively excepted throughout. One of these students, the wealthy and enigmatic Nicholas Parker, presents a particular problem for her: his “true novel” about a lost girl is good, but the details are disturbing, and Nicholas himself claims to be “triggered” by another student’s crime novel  and its “fetishization” of violence against women. Against the backdrop of this already strained atmosphere, Nicholas hosts a term-end class Christmas party, and the disastrous events that follow plunge the novel into a third act where the narrator becomes part of Nicholas’ fictional narrative in disturbing and ultimately terrifying ways.

Somehow this all really worked for me—I found the writing lyrical, the story compelling and the characters—even when I did not always fully believe in their actions—well defined. I particularly liked the relationship between the narrator and her young son, Sammy, which was believably and sweetly depicted. It’s hard to call out the current literary craze of books featuring violence against women by writing a book featuring violence against women, but somehow Baker manages this feat, compelling me to keep turning the pages even while giving me a nagging sense of unease about my need to keep reading. Something to think about.

Thanks to NetGalley and Knopf for providing me with an ARC of this title in exchange for my honest review.
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Many loose ends, was fairly predictable. I didn't find this book to be very thrilling it was more of a mystery. Characters felt one dimensional.
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After a quick, vicious attack, a pregnant young writer wishes she could forget and feel safe again. But her nerves are frayed, and life in London keeps her on edge.
Three years later she accepts a teaching job at a university in the quiet English countryside. Her husband decides to stay in the city and visit her and their son on getaway weekends.
The job ends up being more than she had planned on and she feels anxious and inexperienced.
Among her small group of students, a troubled young man begins to obsess over her and crosses the lines of the student and teacher relationship.
This dark, psychological thriller has a dreamlike quality. Chilling and suspenseful, told in beautiful prose.
I had a difficult time understanding her passivity throughout the book. 
A powerful, unsettling tale.
Thank you to Knopf Doubleday Publishing and NetGalley for the free ebook in exchange for an honest review.
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2.5. I have conflicted feelings about this one and almost didn't finish it. The writing is good, but the plot develops quite slowly, so I would not call this a thriller. It became quite convoluted at times, and I wasn't sure how some details were relevant to the plot. I also had trouble connecting with the narrator, even though she was going through these emotionally charged, traumatic experiences, I feel like I didn't really get a good grasp of how she felt; and, I didn't like how her actions/reactions were just sooo passive. The last quarter of the novel developed quickly, with some suspenseful moments that kept me interested, but I was overall pretty letdown by this book.
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I really, really liked this book. I like thrillers, and I like literary fiction, and I love when those are set in England (I'm not hard to please, really). This book was the perfect mix of genres, and was genuinely surprising at every turn. I loved the mix of "student writing," reports, and narrative, and I think Baker has masterfully explored the complexity of being female in the world. Basically, I thought it was great. Might not be for everyone, but was basically tailor-made for me.
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3 1/2⭐️‘s
While this book was well written and I like Baker’s writing style, I’m not quite sure how I felt about this book.  An emotionally packed story, but somehow that emotion didn’t transfer to the page as well as it should have.  After being attacked in the city, the main character (who’s name we were never told), takes a job at a university and moves to the country.  A place where she can overcome her fears and raise her young son in a safer environment.  As she gets to know her creative writing students, mostly through the pages of their writings, things begin to turn a bit dark.  Baker’s use of the students writing to tie the story together was quite brilliant.  The main character remained a victim for far too long (in my opinion) with life altering results.  The suspense did finally build at the very end for a few edge of your seat moments and then ended in a matter of fact way that left me rather disappointed.
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Atmospheric, gritty, and complex, The Body Lies is a literary thriller that stands out in a sea of uninspired, over the top, suspense reads. Jo Baker relies less so on action and plot to propel the story of our unnamed protagonist, but rather on deep descriptions of characters and place. If you prefer shocking twists and page-turning suspense, this may not be the book for you. But if deep exploration of issues told through the lens of mystery and crime interest you, pick up a copy of The Body Lies.

Baker's protagonist, an unnamed young mother, is the victim of a random act of violence. After her attack, she decides to move with her young son to the countryside and start a new job as a creative writing professor at a small but elite university. There she meets a young, troubled, but captivating student, Nicholas, whose novel is disconcerting and violent, and apparently based on true events. Drawn into Nicholas' orbit, the woman finds herself, once again, an unknowing participant in a man's violent fantasy.
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I was so excited to get this book, because the synopsis just absolutely made me desperate to read it.  Unfortunately for me, it just was not what I expected.  I think the writing style was so different and at times even hard to follow, which had me really having a hard time just enjoying it.  I think it was a decent read, and I’m sure many will enjoy it much more than I did, but was not my favorite.  
Will make sure I use in a challenge and let the members of Chapter Chatter Pub know about it’s upcoming release!
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This timely thriller should be a first purchase for collections where the genre is popular. An excellent offering in a crowded genre.
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This was a multi layered story about a young writer that accepts a job in a remote area. Her insecurities and fears stem from an assault that she suffered and we slowly understand her as the story unravels. Well written, with engaging characters that are easy to relate to.
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This book was super intriguing! It started off strong and carried throughout the entire storyline. There were twists and turns in all the right places, nothing was too exaggerated, and the characters were well developed. I would definitely recommend to a friend.
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The Body Lies is a perfect fall read. I am a sucker for a campus novel, especially when back-to-school season rolls around. It's a great read for those September/October cozy evenings - a creep & atmospheric psychological thriller. This book will keep you turning pages well past your bedtime, but I guarantee you'll make sure your door is locked and the curtains are drawn first.
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