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Bodily Harm

3.35 of 5 stars 3.35  ·  rating details  ·  4,539 ratings  ·  274 reviews
A powerfully and brilliantly crafted novel, Bodily Harm is the story of Rennie Wilford, a young journalist whose life has begun to shatter around the edges.Rennie flies to the Caribbean to recuperate, and on the tiny island of St.Antoine she is confronted by a world where her rules for survival no longer apply.By turns comic, satiric, relentless, and terrifying, Margaret A ...more
Paperback, 280 pages
Published April 13th 1998 by Anchor (first published 1981)
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The Handmaid's Tale by Margaret AtwoodAnne of Green Gables by L.M. MontgomeryThe Book of Negroes by Lawrence HillLife of Pi by Yann MartelThe English Patient by Michael Ondaatje
Canadian Fiction
82nd out of 649 books — 454 voters
The Handmaid's Tale by Margaret AtwoodOryx and Crake by Margaret AtwoodThe Blind Assassin by Margaret AtwoodCat's Eye by Margaret AtwoodAlias Grace by Margaret Atwood
Best of Margaret Atwood
13th out of 77 books — 142 voters

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Community Reviews

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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)!
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
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
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!
HRM Maire
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
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,
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
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
Joseph Clark
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
Jan 09, 2015 Velma marked it as tbr-own-yet-to-read
75 cents for a title by a fave author? Huzzah!
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
April Salazar
Rennie, the main character of Bodily Harm. Rennie was born in a village and raised by her mother and other women from
her family, without her father. She left Griswold to study in Toronto and became a journalist.
Through this job, she meets Jocasta who seems to be her only friend, and Jake, her soon to be boyfriend. She leads a normal life, having a partner, a job and a social life, until she is finds out she has a breast tumor. This cancer leads her to break up with Jake. As she finds herself
Aug 19, 2011 Amanda rated it 3 of 5 stars
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.
Mmmm naw I did NOT enjoy this Atwood (which is a pity as I usually love them). In contrast to Isabel Allende's "Maya's Notebook", which I just reviewed, I feel this was a not particularly successful attempt at subverting the traditionally masculine genre of political / crime thrillers. Rennie is a woman journalist who travels to the Caribbean for respite when her life starts unravelling - except that strange things keep happening to her and she's swept up into a tornado of political intrigue. So ...more
I love Atwood. She is a genius. Her writing is poignant and challenging. And I am always deeply connected to her characters.

I read this book slower than most, in a very busy week, it was a good one to pick up and put down. There was something about the storytelling that was incredibly easy to follow, despite having quite a few timelines going at once.

Atwood’s novels generally feel familiar to me, but never run the risk of being too much the same. The conversations, the characters, they follow
In the early '80s I bought a lot of books, read them very fast, put them on the shelf and (usually) promptly forgot about them.

One of those books was Bodily Harm by Margaret Atwood, which I decided to reread for this year's R.I.P. Challenge because I had vague recollections of an ominous atmosphere, and the reviewer in the cutting I had put inside mentioned "a thriller-like plot".

Alas, halfway through the book (page 140) I was just bored with it. Also, my memory started to come back, giving me g
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.
Oscillating between realizations of frivolity and powerlessness, protagonist Rennie recalls her adult life through different lenses of herself as a modern romantic, independent professional, victim, and survivor. The ending is a nightmarish encounter shared by two women, each with her own vision of what liberty means and what she's willing to sacrifice for it. At times unnerving and others surreal, I couldn't let this one sit on my shelf and had to hand it over to a friend instead. Atwood loads ...more
I can scarce believe that I'm giving an Atwood book such a low rating, but here I am, a worshipper at the Church of Atwood giving Bodily Harm 2 stars. This was not a BAD book, but it definitely was not good. It is overwhelmingly obvious that this is one of her earlier works - the writing quality is excellent, but the plot construction is just not quite there. There were quite a few quotes that I loved and I found some aspects of it interesting - Rennie's relationship to her hometown and with men ...more
Frances Sawaya
On the scale of the zillion books I have read, this falls in the middle; it is also in middle ground among the Atwood books I have read. As per Atwood, there are plot strands that jump time and place constraints but are impeccably woven together. And, there is the usual gallery of women V. men and the usual search for self. Perhaps it is a tad dismissive to look at Bodily Harm this way but there was little in it to lift it beyond the norm.

Why a rating of average? Far too much moving of the story
After being introduced to Atwood through "A Handmaid's Tale" I was looking forward to another riveting adventure with introspective writing. Unfortunately this book wasn't terribly interesting- perhaps because I felt the main character was dripping with self pity. I suppose I prefer novels with strong lead characters, and not hesitant characters lacking confidence.

The clever prose sprinkled throughout the book is what kept me reading. My favorite description was "she didn't want to give them the
Andrew McCrae
"This was the second part of her life. It would be different from the first part, she would no longer be able to take things for granted, but perhaps this was a plus because she would see her life as a gift and appreciate it more. It was almost like being given a second life. She must stop thinking of her life as over.

... Think of your life as a clean page. You can write whatever you like on it." (Virago Modern Classics, 1983, p84)

Although written nearly a decade after Surfacing [1972] - which a
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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...
The Handmaid's Tale Oryx and Crake (MaddAddam, #1) The Blind Assassin The Year of the Flood (MaddAddam, #2) Alias Grace

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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.” 1 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.” 0 likes
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