Review: The Body Lies by Jo Baker
Title: The Body Lies
Author: Jo Baker
Published: June 2019
Publisher: Knopf Publishing Group
From: Book Outlet
Two of my absolute favorite genres are fantasy and thriller, and this one fits the latter so well. The Body Lies by Jo Baker is a standalone psychological thriller, bordering on domestic, about a young woman who moves to a university town in the northern part of England to begin working as a writing instructor. She and her husband are physically separated because of her decision to move after she is survivor of a mugging while pregnant. She no longer feels safe in the large city they lived in, and she wants this new start. So, she and her son travel north and live in a cottage she rents. She quickly learns what it means to work as a creative writing instructor, and eventually the larger and larger work load her boss gives her.
And herein lies the plot: a young man in her graduate creative writing course begins writing scenes to a novel that become increasingly uncomfortable for the unnamed woman. And then, the unnamed woman is put into a position that is far more traumatic and damaging than anything she had witnessed previously.
Lines are blurred here. What makes a cis-het woman, if not her body? Is a body more than just that? Is any person more than just their physical being? And what is the definition of consent?
Nowadays, implied consent exists, which means if the person you are becoming intimate with shows body language signs of not wanting what is happening, legally you cannot continue, as it is considered not consent. And I love this. Many people do not want something but are unwilling to say anything because of stress and trauma responses, or because they are afraid of the other person’s reaction right then or even later. In 1993, marital rape was finally a crime in the entirety of the United States, just to show how absolutely backwards lawmakers are about treating a cis-het woman with any sort of respect. Clearly, this is a trigger warning for this book. But, I will say, if you can stomach something like that, I highly recommend you read it.
This book is probably one of my absolute favorites I have ever read. Also, and this is something I had not realized until I started reading this novel, I have many connections to it. I consider the rural, unnamed university to be Lancaster University, and the author lives in Lancaster. I studied abroad at Lancaster my final semester of my final year in college, learning creative writing, and so this book felt written just for me.
Please, if you are comfortable reading about trauma, murder, marital trouble, rape, stalking, and other less severe issues, please read this book. It is poetically written, insightful, feminist, and beautiful.