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Bodily Harm I spent several weeks in France during the summer of 2003 I arrived at the start of a massive European heat wave that would continue weeks after I left in August, killing nearly 15,000 in France alone One Friday afternoon in late July I trained from Gaillac to Carcassonne, in the heart of the Languedoc I d reserved an inexpensive hotel recommended by my Lonely Planet Guide The hotel was a disaster Dim, dreary, sweltering, grimy I had to pay cash for my night s stay before seeing the room I spent several weeks in France during the summer of 2003 I arrived at the start of a massive European heat wave that would continue weeks after I left in August, killing nearly 15,000 in France alone One Friday afternoon in late July I trained from Gaillac to Carcassonne, in the heart of the Languedoc I d reserved an inexpensive hotel recommended by my Lonely Planet Guide The hotel was a disaster Dim, dreary, sweltering, grimy I had to pay cash for my night s stay before seeing the room Despairing, homesick, I dumped my small pack on the bed and went for a walk, clinging to the shadows, hating everything about dim, dreary, sweltering, grimy Carcassonne Along the way, I passed a three star hotel near Pont Vieux the bridge that spans the Aude River and leads to the medieval fortress, which overlooks Carcassonne I had a brief chat with myself as I walked across the bridge Julie, don t be an idiot You are an adult You have a good job You can give yourself permission to stay in a decent place I turned around and walked back to the fleabag hotel, grabbed my backpack and left Bugger the money I d already paid It wasn t worth the torture I checked in at the Hotel Les Trois Couronnes and had myself a civilized, air conditioned, insect free night in a sparkling room with a view of the Citadel Had I been a character in a Margaret Atwood novel, not only would I have resigned myself to staying at the dive, I would have found cockroaches lurking in the bathroom sink, the shower wouldn t have worked, I d have shared the mattress with bedbugs and been kept up all night by the exuberant lovemaking of my next door neighbors and the drunken fighting in the streets outside Did I mention I would have just lost a breast to cancer And recently split from my self absorbed cheat of a boyfriend And spinning my wheels in a career I no longer cared about Oh, and my apartment would have been recently broken into, a lariat of thin rope left curled on my bed Welcome to the world of Rennie Wilford, small town Canadian making an unsatisfying living as a free lance writer in Toronto Rennie once had hopes of a career in journalism, exposing political outrages and human rights violations She now writes lifestyle pieces, at times inventing fashion trends to create an assignment that will pay the rent Rennie s life is a series of betrayals Her editors, her boyfriend, her body all out to use and abuse her When menaced by a stranger who leaves his murder weapon as a calling card, Rennie decides it s time to leave town for a while She accepts an assignment a fluff travel piece in a flyspeck island in the Caribbean, St Antoine Which is experiencing a bloody revolution If there s anything else that can go wrong in Rennie s life, Atwood is certain to ferret it out and make it happen As a reader, you are forced to suspend empathy with Rennie Atwood treats her cruelly, putting her in impossible situations or making her behave in ridiculous ways It is hard not to cringe, not to wave your hands and shout Don t do it You must read passively, watching this depressed and depressing young woman crash and burn Crikey I m not painting a very pretty picture, am I Why even read this Because, although this story is painful, the writing is incredible Because Atwood smashes writing conventions left and right, tossing in flashbacks that bring present day action to a shuddering halt, by crafting a protagonist you want to shake silly, by tossing in sub plots that illustrate the emotional crap we all haul around Because few writers can wrap a story in can warp a story with satire and tragedy, and still speak so well to the truth of the human condition as Margaret Atwood We re each on our own insignificant island in the middle of nowhere, fighting our bloody revolutions, aren t we Bodily Harm was published in 1981 It could have been written yesterday Rennie, version 2012, would have her laptop stolen, Wifi service on St Antoine would be non existent There would still be a revolution, still be people desperate or amoral enough to use a vulnerable, hapless woman Rennie would be faced with the same lousy circumstances and make the same lousy decisions Still, I d ve stayed at the better hotel almost nobody here is who they say they are at first They aren t even who somebody else thinks they are In this place you get at least three versions of everything, and if you re lucky one of them is true That s if you re luckyBodily Harm tells the story of Rennie Wilford, a young journalist specializing in fashion and lifestyle pieces who accepts a fun in the sun type assignment on the Caribbean island of St Antoine Having struggled in recent months to cope through a difficult spealmost nobody here is who they say they are at first They aren t even who somebody else thinks they are In this place you get at least three versions of everything, and if you re lucky one of them is true That s if you re luckyBodily Harm tells the story of Rennie Wilford, a young journalist specializing in fashion and lifestyle pieces who accepts a fun in the sun type assignment on the Caribbean island of St Antoine Having struggled in recent months to cope through a difficult spell, including a life shattering experience that is still at the forefront of her mind, she hopes a working holiday will allow her to make a break from her past and recuperate in a peaceful and stress free environment.It unfortunately takes little time for the naive Rennie to find herself embroiled in a deadly world of corruption, treachery and brutality where nobody is who they claim to be From the fishy politician Dr Minnow who tells her blood is news , to the over friendly Laura, and the burnt out Yankee Paul, whom she suspects of smuggling dope, everyone she meets appears to be implicated in something unsavoury, and they all have an opinion about her real reasons for being there St Antoine, it seems, isabode of the damned than tropical paradise.As we have come to expect, Atwood writes with wit, irony and intelligence Rennie s story is delivered in fragments, some of which advance the plot while others are flashbacks to her past Although, in my opinion, Bodily Harm isn t one of her great novels, it is nevertheless a well crafted, highly readable exploration of lust for sexual and political power and the ending, despite a certain ambiguity, is far from dissatisfying.You can readof my reviews and other literary features at Book Jotter The first Margaret Atwood book I ve ever read and really not liked She has definitely grown as an author her imagination, the scope of her stories, and her character development have grown exponentially in herrecent books If you re new to Atwood, I d pass on this one and go straight to the Handmaid s Tale, Oryx and Crake, the Year of the Flood, and the Penolopiad in that Order Anther stinker, I m afraid This book is about a Canadian freelance writer who goes to the Caribbean to do a fluff travel piece after dealing with a partial mastectomy and a break up with her boyfriend She gets mixed up with local politics and things go from bad to worse as the country slips into chaos after a coup Although the premise sounds interesting, the book is dreadful not a good read Perhaps the most notable element in this book for me, though it may be strange to admit, is the use of different tenses It s written mostly in the present tense and then switches to the past tense when the main character, Rennie, thinks back, and then to the past perfect tense when there s a flashback within the past sections Perhaps I merely liked it because I felt justified over the times I ve written that way and editors have told me it was confusing Not that I consider myself a writer a Perhaps the most notable element in this book for me, though it may be strange to admit, is the use of different tenses It s written mostly in the present tense and then switches to the past tense when the main character, Rennie, thinks back, and then to the past perfect tense when there s a flashback within the past sections Perhaps I merely liked it because I felt justified over the times I ve written that way and editors have told me it was confusing Not that I consider myself a writer anywhere near Atwood s ability, so I also like that I can learn from her But the reason I like it the most is because when the future tense is employed for the first time, nine pages from the end, it s a stylistic choice that serves the story well.While reading, I was first reminded of Valerie Martin s Italian Fever and then, as one of the blurbs on the back says, Graham Greene there is certainly humor, through irony and satire, in all these authors works, not to mention their stories of an innocent in a foreign country, with their themes of both cultural and sexual politics Then near the end I was reminded of Northanger Abbey Though Rennie is not nearly as innocent as Catherine Morland, this is said of her as she s reading murder mysteries to distract herself She doesn t have much patience for the intricacies of clues and deductions Like Catherine, and the rest of us, what Rennie sees is colored by her past experiences or lack thereof When the comparison popped into my head, I wondered if it was a correct one but now that I see I referenced Northanger Abbey in my review of Italian Fever too, I mconfident of that conclusion.It wasn t till I was finished reading that I realized how angry Atwood is in this book It s definitely a controlled anger, but after the black humor and satire of the beginning and middle, it comes through at the end, and there is no doubt as to what she is angry about Margaret Atwood has been my most favorite writer since I was sixteen There s maybe ten authors in second place, many of whom especially Cort zar regularly rear their heads in my imagination to try to supplant Atwood s place for first, but every time I go back to Margaret, I seriously fall in love again More than anything, I love the way that her language shifts my actual thought patterns, or at least my constantly streaming internal monologue, until it sounds like she s the one inside my hea Margaret Atwood has been my most favorite writer since I was sixteen There s maybe ten authors in second place, many of whom especially Cort zar regularly rear their heads in my imagination to try to supplant Atwood s place for first, but every time I go back to Margaret, I seriously fall in love again More than anything, I love the way that her language shifts my actual thought patterns, or at least my constantly streaming internal monologue, until it sounds like she s the one inside my head, narrating me Is that crazy Maybe I m crazy But reading even a page of Atwood s prose makes my thoughtselegant,intense,literary for days at a time Anyway, Bodily Harm is great, of course It covers most of her preferred themes proto and post feminism, strong and complex female and male characters, lush settings, everything described with an accompanying and often multi layered smell, sexy sex anticipated and actual , complicated plot involving the intersection of the personal with the political or is it the immersion of one into the other Or the amplification by same Whatever This book actually got a lotviolent and dark at the end than I remembered this is at least my fifth read, probably, but it s Atwood Atwood Atwood, and I love herthan anyone else This falls into the What in the heck did I just read category So no stars I enjoyed the writing of this book but it turned me sideways. Rennie Wilford is a freelance journalist who takes an assignment in the Caribbean in the hopes of recuperating from her recently shattered life On the tiny island of St Antoine, she tumbles into a corrupt world where no one is what they seem, where her rules for survival no longer apply This is a thoroughly gripping novel of intrigue and betrayal, which explores human defensiveness, the lust for power both sexual and political, and the need for a compassion that goes beyond what we ordinarily mean by love The enigma unfolds as it would for any innocent bystander swept up by events, bringing along the scruples, and the fears, of the past From the Hardcover edition Atwoods writing style is really the only thing that made this book half decent The plot line was dull and I never felt any kind of connection to any of the characters I guess I was so uninterested that by the end of the book, I was only half paying attention prior to the climax so I ended up being confused, but not really caring to go back and short out the mess so I just went with the flow I was extremely disappointed when I think that this author wrote Handmaid s tale and while not as good, Atwoods writing style is really the only thing that made this book half decent The plot line was dull and I never felt any kind of connection to any of the characters I guess I was so uninterested that by the end of the book, I was only half paying attention prior to the climax so I ended up being confused, but not really caring to go back and short out the mess so I just went with the flow I was extremely disappointed when I think that this author wrote Handmaid s tale and while not as good, Oryx and Crake Wait, I HATED HATE HATED The Blind Assassin so maybe I shouldn t be disappointed At least now I can check this off my list because its been siting on my bookshelf rather pathetically it only has half a cover for quite some time now Likes Like all of Margaret Atwood s books, this one is brilliantly written One of the things I admire about Atwood is that she seems to have a deep understanding of unlikeable people Her characters aren t heroes The main character in Bodily Harm, Rennie, is infuriating I wanted to step through the pages and say Girl, no Just stop She makes a series of bad choices that end with her being locked in a foreign prison.Rennie is a slow motion train wreck Sometimes it s hard to look away Ren Likes Like all of Margaret Atwood s books, this one is brilliantly written One of the things I admire about Atwood is that she seems to have a deep understanding of unlikeable people Her characters aren t heroes The main character in Bodily Harm, Rennie, is infuriating I wanted to step through the pages and say Girl, no Just stop She makes a series of bad choices that end with her being locked in a foreign prison.Rennie is a slow motion train wreck Sometimes it s hard to look away Rennie recently survived cancer, a burglary, and a cheating boyfriend To get away from it all, she visits a Caribbean island to write a fluffy travel story for a magazine As she befriends the locals, the island paradise spirals out of control Rennie isn t very smart She s oblivious to the fact that the locals are drawing her into their violent political revolution The reader can t do anything but sit back and watch Rennie sink deeper into political quicksand You know this won t end well for her the beige should not wear beige Bodily HarmDislikes This isn t my favorite Atwood book She has grown a lot as a writer since Bodily Harm was published This is one of her early novels, and it shows Rennie isn t always compelling to read about She s very passive and has no sense of self preservation She allows bad things to happen to her I found my attention wandering while I was reading because she wasn t doing anything Things just happen to her, and she goes along with them.My edition of this novel was printed in 1984 I need to time machine myself back there and kick the ass of whoever was in charge of quality control at the printer This book was so hard to read There are missing words, missing punctuation, weird spaces Some of the print is so faint that it s nearly impossible to see It was hard to get invested in the story because each page revealed a new printing horror How did this even happen The Bottom Line Not Atwood s best work If you re a hardcore Atwood fan, then reading her early work might be interesting If you re not a hardcore fan, then skip this one and read her dystopias.Do you like opinions, giveaways, and bookish nonsense I have a blog for that

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