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Bodily Harm

3.35  ·  Rating Details ·  5,324 Ratings  ·  327 Reviews

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 d

Hardcover, 266 pages
Published December 31st 1982 by Simon & Schuster (first published 1981)
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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30)
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Julie Christine
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. D
Danielle Franco-Malone
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 her more recent 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)!
Oct 18, 2009 Oriana rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: read-2009
Margaret Atwood has been my most favorite writer since I was sixteen. There's maybe ten authors in second place, many of whom (especially Cortázar) 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 ...more
Feb 08, 2012 Teresa rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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 ...more
Dec 30, 2007 Laura rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
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!
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,
HRM Maire
Nov 09, 2009 HRM Maire rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
OK, this is definitely not the type of book I would normally pick up even at a library where it's free. So how did I come to read this book, you ask? Well, we'd been digging around our place and found a hidden cache of books in the basement--gasp! Books I hadn't looked at in years or even remembered I had. Don't even remember how I obtained some of them, and I assume I had this because I had read "The Handmaid's Tale" and thought I'd read something else by Atwood. I've been cranky about figuring ...more
Dec 10, 2014 Adrian rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
If you like ATWOOD (not just the whiz bang modernity of very recent Atwood), read it. Definitely a dark character study of a woman who feels shattered and unable to relate to those around her, or even feel human; not a happy or fun book in any way. Life is not always happy or fun. Many male readers might be reminded why many men don't like Atwood (though I suppose those are the type of men who never would have read her, anyway). It's interesting to see Atwood set something in the Caribbean, sinc ...more
Joseph Clark
Jul 05, 2015 Joseph Clark rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This one is visceral and disturbing, for me. I laughed out loud more than almost any other Atwood that I've read. But there's a dark current beneath. It's a brilliant book; an engaging and frightening read. Well balanced. Well paced. Impeccable characterizations. Lovely use of tense and mesmerizing fluctuations between past, present and future. It's abstract and straight forward. BODILY HARM combines the best experimentation and playful manipulation of form of SURFACING and BLIND ASSASSIN and th ...more
Jamie Watt
This novel was okay but it wasn't Atwood at her best. I really enjoyed reading the opening with the home invasion and Atwood's wry commentary. The feminist ideas are still as important today as they were in 1985 and I think Atwood really excels in her commentary on objectification and commodification of sexuality. The part where Rennie and Jocasta visit the police's exhibit on strange sexual instruments and material was a thrilling read. Jake, the partner, was odious and the description of his f ...more
A little depressing at first, but action-packed at the end. This breast cancer survivor (she hopes) learns a lot about what she has to be thankful for while visiting a banana republic, ostensibly to do a travel article.
Nov 19, 2012 C. rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
If I was still in the business of writing entertaining and/or clever but largely superficial reviews on this site, right now I would be cogitating over how best to write a parody-homage type review in the Atwoodian style best exemplified by Cat's Eye. The review would probably centre around my total inability to escape the black hole-like suction-y power of Cat's Eye, a book so deeply imprinted on my subconscious that it informs every word I write. I would probably make a clumsy parallel between ...more
Jun 14, 2012 Lo rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is not my favorite Magaret Atwood book, but it is still somewhere between a 3.2 - 3.4 on my rating scale. In reflection, I feel that a large part of my disinterest in this book is that I could not relate to the main character in any way, shape, or form except for the fact that she's female.

Rennie, our 'heroine', is a post breast cancer patient, who dissociates from her own life entirely after coming close to losing it. She finds herself writing a travel article on a politically instable i
Courtney Stirrat
I am a *huge* fan of modern Atwood and feel a compulsive need to read all of her work. Bodily Harm may have changed my perspective. While in works such as The Handmaid's Tale, Oryx Crake, and The Blind Assassin Atwood seems unafraid to play and create literary techniques to heighten both plot and theme, in her earlier books, character studies comprise the bulk of her efforts. If written by anyone but a smattering of authors, I would have given Bodily Harm a single star; however, because writing ...more
William Deyo
Pretty underwhelming. This was my last Atwood novel, and it was written in the middle of some of my favorites (Lady Oracle, Life Before Man, Handmaid's, and Cats Eye)- but the protagonist was so disappointing. I guess she was supposed to be depressed, but literally ALL Atwood's protagonists are, and there's usually much more grace to them. She was just...boring.

Also, she's a fucking journalist and gets stuck in the middle of an insurrection and doesn't even think once "I could write about this"?
Jul 02, 2008 Jamie rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: read-in-2013
I mean, Atwood is Atwood, right? Then again, some of her early books are rough going, for various reasons. Edible Woman is too long; Lady Oracle, ditto; even Surfacing (which is, I think, the turning point in her novel career) feels a bit like a partly successful experiment.

Bodily Harm is likewise bizarre for her - sort of as if Atwood had written Didion's "A Book of Common Prayer" - weird cipher woman character trying to escape her history ventures into a fictionalized and v dangerous Caribbean
Jan 20, 2011 Erin rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Bodily Harm is a thriller unlike any I have ever read. Atwood places her heroine on a small Caribbean island on the verge of revolution, but this reads nothing like a mainstream thriller. The action comparable to a traditional thriller doesn't take place until the last quarter of the book; until that point, Atwood builds a quietly menacing mood by showing us how heroine Rennie has become detached from her body through cancer, surgery, sexual aversion and lust. It isn't until the revolution occur ...more
May 01, 2014 Nessie rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: canadian
3.5 stars. I really love Atwood, but much prefer her futuristic novels. What drew me to this one was the fact that she wrote it on my island and used real events that were happening in the area at the time. It was fascinating and even funny (for me, not for the author or the character) to read about things that I found familiar, and to see in print the stories that I grew up with in my house about the times before I was born. I didn't really like the character herself, actually I didn't like any ...more
Oct 03, 2014 Lisa rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
I'm a big fan of Margaret Atwood so when I saw this book at my library, I grabbed it without examining it. It's the story of Rennie Wilford and her attempts to escape dealing with her recovery from a partial mastectomy. Although it was written in a realistic manner, it was clearly a fable and satire of sexual politics. How much has changed since the late 1980's when this was written and how much has stayed the same. The beginning of the book was very amusing as Margaret Atwood does with her dry ...more
May 19, 2015 Alexa rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fab-15
In this, Margaret Atwood’s fifth novel, she returns to an ever-so-slightly-surreal form of story-telling. She has a fascinating ability to leave me feeling completely connected to her character, while simultaneously being ever so slightly removed from the action, as if we are in the character’s skin, but viewing the world around us through a vague mental mist. Here we have a character that is completely immersed in her own troubles, yet who slowly comes to realize that the troubles of the world ...more
Like most of Atwood's books, I finished this one confused. I felt like I understood what it was about until the last chapter. It is about the main character's emotional growth and it is about how people interact. It all felt very real to me.

As I reflect on the novel, I feel like I am slowly beginning to understand it. Aerin's review helped. It is about a detached and damaged woman slowly coming back to life and discovering what life is about. The first five chapters are definitely about that, b
Jun 24, 2011 Amanda rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2011
I was pretty nervous while reading this book because it involves a machine gun and a Caribbean island--and really, only one thing can result when machine guns and the tropics come together. When the shit goes down, we all end up in this kinda dreamy delirious state and it's hard to tell what's real and what's only hope. Scary. I'm pretty sure neither the good guys nor the bad guys won in the end.
Jan 29, 2009 ehnonymus rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
i *hate* that i hate a book by atwood, but there's no denying it... i blew through this one as quickly as i could just to be done with it. i checked out some reviews of the peeps who gave it five stars just to see if they had picked up on something i had missed, but no. i still think it sucks. and that sucks.
Hassaan Akram
May 27, 2016 Hassaan Akram rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
One of the worst books I have read in the last two years. I had to speed read it after the first few pages and to be honest I didn't enjoy one bit of it. I believe this is the last Margaret Atwood I will ever read. Give this a skip if... Well give this a skip anyways.
Jan 09, 2015 Velma marked it as tbr-own-yet-to-read  ·  review of another edition
75 cents for a title by a fave author? Huzzah!
Emily Graham
Jan 02, 2016 Emily Graham rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction
Probably the least thematically cohesive or coherent Atwood book, which still doesn't make it bad, in the scheme of things.
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Jun 11, 2016 Holly rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Rennie and Jake share an apartment; Jake attempts to control everything - he decides what they eat, he tries to change her by changing her clothes, overtly hoping the sexy/trashy underclothes were "the real you," he would work through sexual fantasies that involved climbing through the window and jumping out at her. Then, in a routine health check, Rennie's doctor finds a lump in her breast, and she has a partial masectomy. Her relationship w/ Jake changes and eventually ends; she becomes obsess ...more
Jun 23, 2017 Rachel rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
If you are trying to decide on which litfic to read by Atwood first, I wouldn't start with this one, but it was great and I love Atwood.

Malignant. Where are my hands?
Vivid. Disturbing.
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Margaret Atwood was born in 1939 in Ottawa and grew up in northern Ontario, Quebec, and Toronto. She received her undergraduate degree from Victoria College at the University of Toronto and her master's degree from Radcliffe College.

Throughout her writing career, Margaret Atwood has received numerous awards and honourary degrees. She is the author of more than thirty-five volumes of poetry, childr
More about Margaret Atwood...

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“She sees where she is, she's here, by herself, she's stranded in the future. She doesn't know how to get back.” 2 likes
“Rennie can see what she is now: she's an object of negotiation. The truth about knights comes suddenly clear: the maidens were only an excuse. The dragon was the real business. So much for vacation romances, she thinks. A kiss is just a kiss, Jocasta would say, and you're lucky if you don't get trenchmouth.” 1 likes
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