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The Body Lies by Jo Baker - Review

Wednesday, April 7, 2021

My friend Laura bought me this for my birthday. She really likes Jo Baker and has bought me one of her books before, although I can't remember which one so don't ask me. As I've said before, I've been trying to read all the books I was given for my birthday and Christmas. I've got them all still by the side of the bed, and I'm working my way through them!

So, this book is about a woman, who I don't think is actually ever named in the book or by anyone, who is assaulted by a man while pregnant, near her home in London. She is married to Mark, and she struggles to get over it. Three years later, she is still struggling. She has had a novel published, and on the back of that she applies for a job in the north of England as a Creative Writing tutor. 

She and her son, Sammy, move to a remote village in an even more remote house, near a farm. She starts her job at the university and finds herself struggling. She has a lot of work to do, part of which is teaching the MA course. She has a handful of students on it, including Nicholas, an enigmatic 20something year old, Meryl, an American student who wants to go out with Nicholas, and some others. They review each other's work, and Nicholas and another student end up in an argument over trigger warnings. Nicholas' work is supposedly autobiographical, and it becomes obvious that he is writing about a girl that he lost, whose body turned up in the village that our heroine lives in. 

Nicholas becomes more obsessed with our heroine, and she begins to be scared in her own home. She goes to a party at his house and something happens that makes her even more scared. The narrative is also interspersed with "statements" from her colleagues and students, but it's not obvious what has happened until the end.

This is only a short book but it took me a while to read it. At the beginning I couldn't really engage with it, and I'm not sure why. At that point I would have given this book three out of five. However, I do think it picked up in the second half and by the end of it, it was more like a four. So I'm giving this 3.5 out of five.

I will say that I had a problem with a couple of things: one, I couldn't really understand why the heroine's assault was such a problem for over three years that she had to run away three years later. Why didn't she run away to begin with? Why didn't she get help in that time? I feel like this was just a way to make her child over three in the book, when she moves to the remote village, and I didn't really like that. The second thing I didn't like was that she had a problem in the relationship with her mother, to the extent that she doesn't tell her mother that she is pregnant until after Sammy is born. This is never explained and it annoyed me!

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