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Having reviewed over 1200 books on this blog, I have now written two myself. Motherdarling is a story about a search for a missing Will which reveals long-hidden family secrets. The Kids of God is a thriller set in a dystopia ruled by fascist paramilitaries. Both are available as paperbacks and on Kindle through Amazon. I live in Canterbury, England. I lived for more than thirty years in Bedford. Having retired from teaching; I became a research student at the University of Bedfordshire researching into Liminality. I achieved my PhD in 2019. I am now properly retired. I love reading! I enjoy in particular fiction (mostly great and classic fiction although I also enjoy whodunnits), biography, history and smart thinking. Follow me on twitter: @daja57

Friday, 16 June 2017

"Bodily Harm" by Margaret Atwood

At the beginning Rennie, a globe trotting journalist, has had surgery for a lump in her breast; her boyfriend Jake has left; someone apparently intending to assault her has broken into her flat. Which is quite a beginning.

Seeking to escape she takes an assignment to do a travel piece on an impoverished Caribbean island. This began to remind me of Graham Greene at his very best. The airport is run down and the hotel is shabby. Everyone she meets seems to have a sinister agenda. The police are corrupt and there is an impending election; one of the major industries is drug smuggling; the hurricane relief money lines the pockets of the politicians. The descriptions are brilliant, the characters perfect.

  • "Less like a background ... than a subground, something that can't be seen but is nevertheless there, full of gritty old rocks and buried stumps, worms and bones; nothing you'd want to go into." (p 18)
  • "Those who'd lately been clamouring for roots had never seen a root up close ... she'd rather be some other part of the plant." (p 18)
  • "In Griswold everyone gets what they deserve. In Griswold everyone deserves the worst." (p 18)
  • "She didn't want to die with dignity. She didn't want to die at all." (p 20)
  • "Pick a man, any man, and find the distinguishing features. They eyebrows? The nose? The body?" (p 44)
  • "The standard aimed at was not beauty but decency ... If you were a girl it was a lot safer to be decent than to be beautiful." (pp 54 - 55)
  • "You're turning me on. ... I thought you were on all the time."
  • "Being in love was like running barefoot along a street covered with broken bottles. It was foolhardy, and if you got through it without damage it was only by sheer luck. It was like taking your clothes off at lunchtime in the bank. It let people think they knew something about you that you didn't know about them, it gave them power over you. It made you visible, soft, penetrable; it made you ludicrous." (p 102)
  • "She doesn't like the sign of ravage, damage, the edge between inside and outside blurred like that." (p 85)
  • "'I'm an animal in the dark.' 'Which one ... A chipmunk?'" (p 117)
  • "I personally think it's just dandy when people can't express anger, there's enough of it in the world already." (p 165)
  • "He did make his living cutting parts off other people's bodies and patting their shoulders while they died, he used the same hands for both." (pp 196 - 197)
  • "'But up and coming' ... 'As often as possible', said Jake." (p 200)
  • "Nobody wants it [the drug trade] legalized, then you could grow it right there in your own back yard, the bottom would fall out of the market." (p 216)
  • "Love is tangled, sex is straight." (p 223)
  • "I'd like to fly like a bird but I never jumped off any roofs." (p 266)

Rennie has had surgery resulting in removal pf part of her body. Throughout the book, Rennie sees bits of body that seem to have become detached:

  • "His fingers were around her wrist. She did not see his hands but an odd growth, like a plant or something with tentacles, detachable." (p 32)
  • "My hands, she said. I've left them somewhere and now I can't find them. She was holding her hands in the air, helplessly, as if she couldn't move them.   They're right there, I said. On the ends of your arms.    No, no, she said impatiently. Not those, those are no good any more. My other hands, the ones I had before, the ones I touch things with." (p 57)
  • "She realises she's stepped over a pair of legs, trousers with bare feet at the end." (p 68)
  • "She thinks briefly of his feet, stifled in humid leather." (p 76)
  • "Without his eyes his face is expressionless, he's a faceless stranger. She's aware of his arm lying across the back of the seat." (p 98)
  • "It's her hands she's looking for, she knows she left them here somewhere, folded neatly in a drawer, like gloves." (p 116)
  • "Afterwards she could feel the shape of his hand for hours." (p 144)
  • "Fragmentation, dismemberment, this is what he sees when he looks at her." (p 258)

Wonderful. June 2017; 301 pages

Books by Margaret Atwood reviewed in this blog:

  • The Heart Goes Last: a homeless couple enter a utopian community
  • Bodily Harm: A wonderful Graham Greenesque excursion to a Caribbean island where no one is who they seem to be
  • Oryx and Crake: adventures in a world post climate change
  • Hag-Seed: a brilliant retelling of the Tempest, re enacted in a prison
  • The Handmaid's Tale: the one that everyone raves about ... but not her best.

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