Author: Margaret Atwood
Pages: 300 (mass-market)
Publisher: McClelland & Stewart (1981)
Rating: 3.5 stars
Ever since I read The Handmaid’s Tale in high school, I have been a big fan of Atwood’s work. I liked her books so much that I wrote my senior thesis on the novel Surfacing. She has a vast canon of fiction, non-fiction, poetry, short-stories, etc. The scope of her work is incredible; she is able to handle multiple imaginative scenarios, topics, characters, and styles with clarity and precision. Bodily Harm is the 8th novel I’ve read by her (only 5 more to go!).
Rennie, the protagonist, after undergoing treatment for breast cancer (and a partial mastectomy) is emotionally and physically worn out. Her relationship with her partner Jeff takes a dramatic plunge when she falls in love with her doctor. Both the emotional upheaval of cancer treatment and her love life spiraling out of control force her to take refuge in her work as a travel journalist.
Her boss sends her to a small island where she attempts to relax. However, the island is experiencing political unrest and when she gets involved with Paul, she may be in for more than she anticipated.
The story is overall fairly sad and contemplative: a woman trying to come to terms with failed relationships and life after cancer. However, the last 50 pages or so take a horrific turn. It’s almost like you start a completely different novel from the one you finish. Nevertheless, Bodily Harm is not a book you can put down even when things take a turn for the worst. Atwood is brilliant at holding back just enough information to string you along until the end.
This book was compelling but not my favorite. Other books by Atwood that are 4-5 stars:
- The Handmaid’s Tale
- Cat’s Eye
- The Robber Bride
- Dancing Girls (short stories)