Posts Tagged ‘Bodily Harm’

I finally finished my book! which was Bodily Harm, by Margaret Atwood.

I am not sure how to discuss this one. It’s taken longer than expected to read, and the tone changed dramatically in the last 35 pages which took it into an entirely different direction to the one I had expected.

The majority of the story is about Rennie, a journalist whose life has been fundamentally changed by breast cancer.  Trying to escape from her post-surgery life, she seeks an assignment far away from the complications of her newly aware existence.  She leaves behind her old partner, an affair with her oncologist, and an invisible but frightening voyeur/predator/house-breaker who left a rope on her bed after breaking into her flat.

She arrives on the island of St Antoine ready to write a travel piece but before long she is unwittingly and unwillingly caught up in the politics of the island and its neighbour Ste Agathe.

This book is partially a reverie on body confidence and the sense of loving and trusting our bodies, even when faced with challenges.  As Rennie becomes more involved with the mysterious American Paul, she begins to accept her newly scarred body.

However, it is also a tale of corruption, violence and danger, and although there is an underlying menace throughout, this really takes hold of Rennie’s story in the last 50 or so pages, with the outcome being the main focus of the last 35.

I really enjoy ‘human condition’ stories, where the plot is about a character facing a difficulty.  Therefore all these sections worked for me.

However, the other side of the story wasn’t really to my taste. The sense of foreboding was ok but the extremity of the outcome and the last 35 pages was much less enjoyable – although oddly, much quicker to read!

I think in part my reaction to it is about style. Atwood writes in a way that perfectly suits personal reflection. She has a knack for revealing how an individual views their world and how they respond to stimuli. When that gives way to looking at what is happening to a character (rather than how the character is perceiving a situation) it is less powerful.

Add to that the fact that the end feels very rushed in comparison with the rest of the story, and I think these explain why this book is not my favourite Atwood.

I read this for fun but it has made me reflect on a writing truth: as writers, we need to know what type of storytelling works best with our voice. You can stray from the path, of course, but you need to know your way back.

Playing to our strengths is the best way to get our writing noticed.

Happy reading,




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