With an unflinching eye, Baker deftly explores the pressure, judgment, and dangers women are subjected to on a daily basis simply because they are female. Her brilliant novel is a scathing indictment of the many ways society excoriates women while excusing violent men. A must read.
... more literary-themed than literary-sourced. On this occasion she turns from past masters and masterpieces and instead devises an ingenious and electrifying setup that explores the boundary between fact and fiction ... Baker may deny her narrator a name, but she ensures she is so well delineated in every other respect as to be believable and sympathetic ... What begins as an engaging tale about a new start in a new environment among budding new writers ramifies into a gripping psychological thriller that combines fiendish mind games and riveting drama with a timely examination of male entitlement and female struggle ... Baker’s novel does just that: beguiling us, transporting us and terrifying us for good measure.
Baker knowingly adds woman-in-peril tropes to her own protagonist’s story as she builds a slowly unspooling psychological thriller — of course the miles-from-anywhere house she rents is in a mobile-phone blackspot. But there’s something cleverer going on in The Body Lies; its clout is in the sexual politics behind its deft contrast between the fictional depiction of violence against women — as written in the postgrads’ work — and the stark, isolating reality.
What Jo Baker does in The Body Lies is truly masterful. For at least the first two-thirds of the novel, she manages to cast doubt on the narrator’s credibility, thereby encouraging the reader to participate in exactly the kind of dynamic that the narrator herself encounters, in which she, simply by virtue of being a women, is doubted, discounted and second-guessed at every turn. The book’s form...is also well-thought-out and helps enrich what already would have been an exciting psychological thriller.
... sits in uneasy, challenging relation to contemporary popular fiction ... There is some good campus satire ... Presenting these pieces in the novel is a loop of metafiction that would floor a less assured writer ... When the denouement comes, it is well timed to feel both shocking and inevitable: early enough for satisfying resolution afterwards and late enough to keep the reader up long into the night. There is violence, but there is also a very modern interrogation of violent fiction. What were you staying up late for, exactly? ... sets itself large challenges: that fragmentary narrative, including an official complaint and some bureaucratic emails; the difficulty of using violence as a narrative device while questioning the politics of using violence as a narrative device; the task of combining the satire of the campus novel with the high drama of the thriller. Baker is a writer who can make it all work. Beyond the dubious fun of the chase, the pleasure of reading this novel is seeing writerly ambition fulfilled.
This book is marketed as a riveting novel of psychological suspense. It's none of that. It's a literary novel, half highbrow, half Netflix Original, with odd characters doing odd things and responding to their lives and to others in a decidedly peculiar manner ... one of those annoying novels about writers and their writings, many of which are randomly reproduced within the pages, totally disrupting the flow of the main story arc. Readers will be skipping pages ... a disappointing, slow-moving, uncomfortable read.
The woman begins to sense warning signals yet doesn’t take the necessary steps, a factor common to thrillers but also part of Baker’s commentary on the difficulties for women of dealing with encroaching peril. Nevertheless, this conventional setup is at odds with Baker's previous, often outstanding body of work, which is marked by more original portraits of women’s lives and stances. Here, for all the central character’s identifiable dilemmas and the interesting perspective of the 'other' literary voices, the story devolves into single-strand plot stereotype, with a psychopath battering down the door and a terrorized woman fleeing for her safety ... Baker's fans will enjoy the crisp descriptive writing and insightful nuances but might find this a limited, relatively predictable showcase for her abilities.