Bodily harm

by Margaret Eleanor Atwood

Hardcover, 1982

Status

Available

Genres

Publication

New York : Simon and Schuster, c1982.

Description

Rennie Wilford, a young jounalist running from her life, takes an assignment to a Caribbean island and tumbles into a world where no one is what they seem. When the burnt-out Yankee Paul (does he smuggle dope or hustle for the CIA?) offers her a no-hooks, no strings affair, she is caught up in a lethal web of corruption.

Media reviews

Library Journal
Summary A powerfully and brilliantly crafted novel, "Bodily Harm is the story of Rennie Wilford, a young journalist whose life has begun to shatter around the edges. Rennie flies to the Caribbean to recuperate, and on the tiny island of St. Antoine she is confronted by a world where her rules for survival no longer apply. By turns comic, satiric, relentless, and terrifying, Margaret Atwood's "Bodily Harm is ultimately an exploration of the lust for power, both sexual and political, and the need for compassion that goes beyond what we ordinarily mean by love.

User reviews

LibraryThing member iayork
Happiness and cheer abound: Sure it does. It is very much not a good idea for a reader to attempt to psychoanalyze an author through their own works, because not only will you probably come to the wrong conclusions, but the ones you do come up with will probably creep you out just a little bit. To whit: Margaret Atwood probably is a delightfully cheery woman who quite enjoys life and all she encounters . . . however that sure doesn't come across in her novels. In her best novels the misery her characters suffer often eventually dovetails into a gloriously insightful epiphany of sorts. And in other cases you often feel like just guilty reading the book, after a while you get the impression by continuing to read you're furthering the character's Job-like troubles. Life Before Man was a bit of a downer but at least it was spread over four people . . . here poor Rennie has to take it all on the chin herself. Young woman journalist Rennie is sent to a Caribbean island to write a vacation type story . . . what happens is quite simply the vacation from hell. There's really no other way to put it. Nobody is what they seem, Rennie is totally out of place and things start getting very serious before anyone knows what's going on. However if that's all there was to the book then it would simply be a matter of plodding on to see what Ms Atwood is going to do next to poor Rennie. To save the story, Atwood details Rennie's crumbling relationship with her boyfriend, as well as her relationships with both her family and others . . . these quasi-flashbacks (some are given as monologues, though I'm not sure who she's talking to) are interspersed throughout the novel and are where the story truly shines. When she wants to Atwood can get right to the heart of a person and choose the exact right words to get the emotions right. The ending alone is one of the best examples of a stark prose style I've ever seen. So ignore the quasi-political intrigue plot and instead focus on a masterful character study by one of the few authors who know how to get such things right. The feelings she reveals may be painful but you can't argue that she's all that far off.… (more)
LibraryThing member juniperSun
An exploration of passivity and connection. Rennie's life begins to fall apart after her cancer diagnosis. Unable to deal with the way her body has betrayed her, she escapes to a Caribbean island, but her emotional state interferes with her ability to make self-protective decisions and she gets swept into local politics.
Rennie's lifestyle is not one I usually can tolerate reading about, but Atwood's strong writing pulled me in. This was written with a very fluid time sense-- with flashbacks to Rennie's formative years in a puritanical rural community in Canada, to her relationships with her live-in boyfriend and her surgeon, to her work as independent lifestyle journalist, to her sole-mentioned woman friend --and with much introspection. Sections that are not set in current time lack quotation marks around remembered dialog, but that lack didn't bother me as much as the same technique in another author's book.
Rennie has a recurring memory of her senile grandmother thinking she has lost her hands, which is haunting but which isn't easily tied in to the plot and leaves me wondering why that particular body part.
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LibraryThing member technodiabla
Unless you just want to read all Atwood's works, I'd skip this one. It isn't bad, but is seams cheaper, rushed through, and just not crafted with the care and brilliance of other Atwood novels.
LibraryThing member beserene
I honestly think that Atwood is at her best when she drifts into speculative fiction and this is not speculative fiction. Though this is exquisitely crafted, with very real emotion, I did not invest in the characters and, while I appreciated the social commentary, I didn't really care all that much about what happened. Admirable, but not lovable.… (more)
LibraryThing member ilovecookies
Not rated because it is not remembered!!!! It was all so long ago.....
LibraryThing member ladybug74
I enjoyed this book, though it wasn't the best that I've read by this author. The book was well-written and I felt like Rennie was a real person as I read her story.
LibraryThing member edella
Rennie Wilford, a young journalist running from her life, takes an assignment to a Caribbean island and tumbles into a world where no one is what they seem. When the burnt-out Yankee Paul (does he smuggle dope or hustle for the CIA?) offers her a no-hooks, no strings affair, she is caught up in a lethal web of corruption.
LibraryThing member Esquiress
I found Bodily Harm to be really interesting, though at some points slow-moving. It was the first Atwood that I had read that blatantly had local politics at his core and really emphasized it. That is not to say that any of her other works don't have politics in them; it's just that this one had small-island politics and revolution at its core.

At first I thought it was another identity-crisis novel, but this had so much more to it. Yes, Renni was having a bit of a crisis, but then she found herself intertwined in the local politics of a small set of islands she was supposed to be writing a travel piece on. It was really interesting to see how it unfolded, especially as the novel drew to a close.

I was very interested in the changes of verb tense throughout the different portions of the novel. Also, the novel was broken into parts rather than chapters. I'm not quite sure why the distant past of Renni's life was in present tense, the closer past was in past tense, the current story was in present, and the ending was in future tense. It definitely helped me differentiate among the different threads of the story that was being woven.

Stylistically, the novel used a lot of dialogue, and the sentences were easy to follow and relatively short. The locals' version of English was very distinct, and I thought it came across well.

I would rank this early novel between Lady Oracle and Surfacing, with Lady Oracle above. I'd definitely recommend it.
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LibraryThing member samfsmith
Woman recovering from cancer surgery goes to a Caribbean island for a work/vacation trip and becomes involved in political upheaval. Not my favorite Atwood novel. I had a tough time understanding the point of it all, something that is usually very clear with her novels. The ending is also very dark.
LibraryThing member whitebalcony
I struggled with this book, for a number of reasons. The content was dense but there was little in the way of a compelling story line to keep me reading. It felt like I was supposed to continue... so I did. I was bored through most of the book and was relieved when it was finally over with.
LibraryThing member dickmanikowski
Having heard about Margaret Atwood for many years, I finally decided to try one. It was . . . interesting. And disconcerting. But I'm pretty sure I'll read more of her stuff.
LibraryThing member csweder
This is one of Atwood's earlier books, and I can definitely see some differences in her writing.

I think what I love about Margaret Atwood is that she is able to write about complex feelings and emotions, but in a round-about way that does not make it obvious that she is doing it.

This was the story of Rennie, a woman recently recovering from breast cancer (and feeling that her life is over). She basically stops living until she decides to go on a trip to a middle of nowhere island to get away from her life for a bit. And that's what happens...in a way. She gets a little caught up in a little revolution...

In typical Atwood fashion, the ending leaves the reader wondering...

Oh Atwood! I heart you!
… (more)
LibraryThing member ChelleBearss
Rennie is a young journalist who has found her life coming to pieces. Surviving breast cancer has left her struggling with her life and her sadomasochistic relationship with Jake has come to an end.
Rennie decides to run away from life temporarily and takes a travel piece on a small caribbean island. However Rennie arrives at the island in the middle of an election and unrest and finds herself mixed into things that she has no business being mixed in.
This novel is all about power and as with any Atwood book I came away with more unanswered questions than I did answers.
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LibraryThing member CareBear36
It's not my favorite Atwood book, but it is in no way a bad book.

The writing is fantastic and I love the constantly changing tone of the narration. Atwood exposes the human character in such a raw and chaotic way that it is almost impossible not to be swept away by her work. An interesting piece of fiction that explores sexual and political power in a way that truly makes the reader think.… (more)
LibraryThing member Boohradley
I struggled to finish this book, and its not very long. I think my problem was is that I did not like the main character Rennie. On a positive note, I did like how Atwood explored how being unmoored effected all the decisions Rennie made; it seemed very realistic.
LibraryThing member csweder
This is one of Atwood's earlier books, and I can definitely see some differences in her writing.

I think what I love about Margaret Atwood is that she is able to write about complex feelings and emotions, but in a round-about way that does not make it obvious that she is doing it.

This was the story of Rennie, a woman recently recovering from breast cancer (and feeling that her life is over). She basically stops living until she decides to go on a trip to a middle of nowhere island to get away from her life for a bit. And that's what happens...in a way. She gets a little caught up in a little revolution...

In typical Atwood fashion, the ending leaves the reader wondering...

Oh Atwood! I heart you!
… (more)
LibraryThing member LisaMorr
Not my favorite by Atwood, but kept my attention. About a journalist who just went through breast cancer treatment and went off to a Caribbean island to write an article. She gets caught up in a revolution as she goes through many emotions dealing with her self-image and sexuality. The ending seemed a little contrived, but it was a decent read.… (more)

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