Book Review

The Body Lies – Jo Baker

In the UK, a pregnant teacher and writer is assaulted one evening by a stranger, but rather than report the incident, continues on with her life, even though the trauma sticks with her long into the future. Three years later, when she is offered a position away from London to teach a college literature class, she sees it as a fresh start, and moves to the small community with her child, leaving her husband, a fellow teacher, back home. Before long, Baker introduces us to the students, through narrative as well as passages from their class assignments. She focuses particularly on Nick, a fiercely creative but enigmatic boy, who has one inviolate rule: everything he writes must be true.  Before long, his increasingly violent and obsessive prose create a sense of foreboding and psychological suspense as our unnamed narrator confronts not only her troubled student but her own submerged stress disorder as well.

A subtle portrayal of a woman undone by a vicious, unprompted, seemingly random violent attack and how it colors her life. Baker weaves together the characters and their motivations into a fascinating, fast-paced, and perceptive narrative leading to a harrowing, haunting climax. This is one of the best books I read in 2019.