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The Body Lies

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The Body Lies by Jo Baker
Jun 18, 2019 | ISBN 9780525656111
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    May 19, 2020 | ISBN 9780525566052

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    Jun 18, 2019 | ISBN 9780525656111

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    Jun 18, 2019 | ISBN 9780525656128

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“Jo Baker’s The Body Lies is gripping and strange in the best possible way: the perfect marriage of risky literary fiction and full-on thriller.” —Maria Semple, author of Where’d You Go, Bernadette

“With high-stakes storytelling and riveting suspense, this story goes beyond just a simple mystery as it addresses some of our own major societal problems.”—Today

“A must read . . . 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.” —Kristine Huntley, Booklist (starred)

“Beautiful words wrapped around brutal truths—The Body Lies is a novel for now . . . It’s an outstanding story.” —Clare Mackintosh, author of I Let You Go

“An ingenious and electrifying setup that explores the boundary between fact and fiction . . . a gripping psychological thriller that combines fiendish mind games and riveting drama with a timely examination of male entitlement and female struggle . . . beguiling us, transporting us and terrifying us for good measure.”—Minneapolis Star Tribune

“Baker’s heroine is one of the most believable I’ve seen on the page in a long time . . . nuanced, non-linear, lifelike. The truthfulness of this creation carries us as long as the story shifts gear from literary fiction to thriller . . . Baker manipulates these gears masterfully, and the final chapters deliver the heart-in-mouth genre denouement we’ve been waiting for.”The Times Literary Supplement 

“All too plausible, Baker’s powerful tale is at times heart-rending to read—and impossible to put down.” Publishers Weekly (starred)

“Baker boldly and refreshingly insists on changing the narrative surrounding sexual assault. The Body Lies isn’t another story of a silent, naked, dead girl. … Indeed, this novel is the story of a survivor, not a victim.”BookPage

“I read The Body Lies in one sitting. As a thriller, it grips and shocks; as a portrayal of the way women move through the world, and the way men see them, it has never been more timely. Absolutely stunning.” —Erin Kelly, author of He Said/She Said

The Body Lies is a train of brilliantly realized scenes that can speed the reader along, but it is better to stop now and then to ponder the issues raised by this thought-provoking book. Not a conventional ‘summer read’ perhaps, but a rewarding one.”The Washington Times

“Heart-pounding . . . The Body Lies takes the familiar tale of a student-teacher relationship to the extreme. An academic psychological thriller . . . [a] breathless account”—Suspense Magazine

“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 and the stark, isolating reality.”—Siobhan Murphy, The Times (UK)
“This is an exceptionally well-written psychological thriller.”The Mail on Sunday (UK)

The Body Lies sets itself large challenges . . . 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.”The Guardian (UK)

Author Q&A

Q: In one or two sentences, what is The Body Lies about?
A: The Body Lies is about sexual violence and its aftermaths, about the imposition of one person’s will on another; about resistance, resilience and recovery. Told in intertwining narratives and conflicting voices, and it’s an exploration of the struggle to stay in charge of one’s own story.
Q: What compelled you to write this book?
A: The book emerged from a number of concerns.
I’d become troubled by the frequency of the ‘naked dead girl’ as a trope in fiction (including TV and film). I’d become troubled by the way in which this reduces women – actual persons, you know, with a rich inner life and full human agency – to silence, stillness and passivity. I’m troubled by the way that these same stories often serve to make women more afraid, and by the way in which they eroticize violence against women. It was important for me to push back against this. It was important to me that the narrator is herself a survivor of violence; she hasn’t been silenced or made passive by it and refuses to let a male voice tell her story; she shoulders her baggage, along with other peoples’, and lugs it on. 
I also wanted to acknowledge that sexual violence is all too common. The statistics are such that there are women in any meeting or queue or office or coffee shop who have been subjected to it in some form. They might not be finding it easy, but they are getting on with things, day to day. I wanted to notice and celebrate the reality of female resilience, their continuing stories, that life goes on.
Q: Are any elements of The Body Lies inspired by or based on personal experience?
A: The book is rooted in my own experience of being assaulted, and the subsequent struggle to get back on track. My unintentional mantra in the aftermath was it could have been so much worse, and that is absolutely true, but I’m not sure that it was helpful. The assault may not have been as bad as it could have been, but it did change the way I live in the world: I haven’t really felt entirely safe since. I was out walking my dog when a passerby stopped me, talked to me. It took me a moment to realize what he was saying, because he was speaking so quietly. He was describing what he’d like to do to me. When I told him to shut up, he punched me in the face. I had a nasty bruise for a while, and a chipped tooth. It’s not the only experience I’ve had of unwanted attention, but it’s the only one that actually involved a physical attack.
Before the assault, I’d felt invulnerable; I’d felt like I could go anywhere, do anything – but afterwards I retreated; I felt stupid; I felt naïve, for having previously felt so at home in the world. I felt I understood the world better now, and felt less at ease in it.
Q: How does The Body Lies confront other portrayals of violence against women in fiction?
A: I’m ‘writing against’ fictions in which women’s accounts of assault or harassment are exposed as unreliable or manipulative. They’re not unusual – Mamet’s Oleanna is probably the most celebrated example of this kind of narrative – but I had a few of them in mind while writing.
I’m interested but kept at arm’s length by these stories. I can see why they work the way they do – in order to play with expectations and shift the power around between characters. But I don’t feel that they reflect my experience, or that of my friends; I don’t recognize what’s depicted there as real. I wanted to tell a story that plays with expectations, and shifts the power around, but I also wanted to tell the truth. Or, at least, tell my version of it.
Q: What would you want someone to say about your book at a dinner party?
A:        ‘The way her life gets kicked out from under her like that…’
‘Yeah but, it’s so common, isn’t it? The stats are like, one in four women, in their lifetime, and that’s just reported crime…? I mean, there’s four of us, four women sitting here now round this table.’
Glances. One woman grits her jaw. Another nods.
‘It’s tough.’
‘Yeah it’s tough.’
‘But you get on with it, day to day; you just get on with it, don’t you.’
‘And that’s what the book’s about, ultimately, isn’t it? Endurance, and resilience? Like when, towards at the end, she has to – ’
‘Don’t spoiler me!’
            ‘Ha, sorry; where are you up to?’
            ‘When he sends her the piece he’s written, about that night.’
            ‘Eugh. Yes. That gave me the heebie-jeebies.’
            ‘Yeah he’s a piece of work.’
‘Okay, yeah, but, tell me this. With all those different voices, all those stories in the novel: can you really say that any one of them is actually telling the truth?’
            ‘Ah. Well… you’ll have to wait and see.’

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