Favorite Books of the 2010s: The Body Lies by Jo Baker

This is a series of reviews of my favorite books published between 2010 and 2019.

The Body Lies by Jo Baker (2019)

From its opening, when a young woman is sexually assaulted by a stranger on the street, this story has a subtle but growing sense of menace and dread. That one event starts a chain in which the woman, now a mother of a toddler, leaves London and moves to a small English town to teach a masters course in creative writing. Her husband stays behind to keep his job. The separation strains her marriage, of course, and one of her students, a well-off full-of-himself brooding type who only writes “the truth,” has taken an unhealthy interest in her.

I very much empathized with this narrator (I don’t think we get her name). A lot of women could relate to her experiences, I think. In the end, she insists on being the author and protagonist of her own story. Her refusal to conform to men’s expectations of how she should behave as a supporting player in their stories has a lot of negative consequences for her. I thought The Body Lies was compulsively readable, tautly written, and not only a compelling commentary on how men see women, but also a cutting critique of MFA programs and academia in general.

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