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Bodily Harm

3.34  ·  Rating details ·  6,935 ratings  ·  471 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, Marg ...more
Paperback, 291 pages
Published April 13th 1998 by Anchor (first published October 3rd 1981)
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Average rating 3.34  · 
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 ·  6,935 ratings  ·  471 reviews

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Dec 25, 2019 rated it liked it
I love Margaret Atwood's Cat's Eye, The Handmaid's Tale, The Robber Bride, Alias Grace, Oryx and Crake, The Year of the Flood and Maddaddam. I have read others by her of which I am not as fond. This is one of those. Bodily Harm starts with a bang. A woman whose boyfriend has just broken up with her (because she has cancer and had a breast removed, what a schmuck!), had a break in to her apartment foiled by an observant neighbor. The creep wasn't a robber, he left a rope behind on the bed. Unders ...more
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.
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)! ...more
Dec 30, 2007 rated it did not like it
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!
Paula Bardell-Hedley
“…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 lucky.”
Bodily 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 spe
Oct 18, 2009 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
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 decided that there were some things it was better not to know any more about than you had to. Surfaces, in many cases, were preferable to depths."

This, in a nutshell, is what this difficult, anxiety causing, frustrating main character named Rennie, is all about. She is a journalist, but not an investigative journalist. A fluffy journalist doing the surface pieces such as trends, lifestyles, and travel. She returns to her childhood memories throughout the novel, (growing up in a stifling,
Jan 29, 2021 rated it it was ok
Hm no this wasn't for me. Didn't see the point in this book or enjoyed it ...more
Feb 08, 2012 rated it really liked it
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
Aj Sterkel
Jan 31, 2019 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: adult
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
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,
Julie Tridle
Apr 14, 2011 rated it did not like it
Though I've really liked other Atwood books in the past (Alias Grace, The Handmaid's Tale) I wasn't a fan of this book at all. As I read, I felt like I was trapped inside a cheesy romance novel while a much better novel was going on all around it.

In the book, the protagonist, Remmie Wilford, retreats to a Caribbean Island. She's there to write a light travel piece and to emotionally regroup after undergoing a partial mastectomy and also losing her lover. But, as it turns out, all the "good isl
HRM Maire
Nov 09, 2009 rated it really liked it
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
Valerie Haynes
Aug 15, 2016 rated it did not like it
Stupid unlikable woman who has the personality of a crotchety old woman but the naïveté of an eight year old. Maybe is around 30??? Flees the city to a tropical island and is too polite to be direct or ever say no to anyone.

Random man: let me take you on a day long tour of sights you expressed no interest in seeing!
Main character: well I hate to be rude, better go!

Random woman: pick up a box for me at customs that is definitely medicine and not a gun at all!
Main character: well I have no inst
Jul 02, 2008 rated it liked it
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
Will Deyo
Jun 21, 2016 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: read-in-2016
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"?
Mar 10, 2019 rated it liked it
Not a light read. Well written (of course) but damn, Margaret.
Sep 12, 2020 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: canadian-author
Just could not get into this one; slow moving, hard to follow at times without the quotation marks, Rennie seemed to be so down on herself at times, the plot did not seem too far fetched but with the CIA and political overtones....made this hard to get behind the story lines at times.

Also found Rennie to be other strange/weird female character like the ones in Surfacing and Edible Woman.

Loved Alias Grace and Handmaids Tale, before this one, so perhaps I was spoiled?
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
Jan 20, 2011 rated it really liked it
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
Mar 27, 2017 rated it liked it
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
Dec 10, 2014 rated it really liked it
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 rated it it was amazing
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
Jan 29, 2009 rated it did not like it
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. ...more
Hassaan Akram
May 27, 2016 rated it did not like it
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. ...more
Allison ༻hikes the bookwoods༺
This has to be my least favourite Atwood novel of the ones I’ve read.
Lucinda Elliot
Aug 17, 2018 rated it it was amazing
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
When I started reading Bodily Harm, I thought I was in for a treat. Here was the wonderful Margaret Atwood delving into the feelings of a woman who has had an operation for breast cancer. She’s feeling vulnerable and has dropped into the ‘black hole’ that inevitably follows the intense period of diagnosis and treatment, when you’re left to your own devices to rebuild your life and recuperate from all the violence that has been done to you in the course of treating the malignancy that has taken o ...more
Jun 24, 2018 rated it it was ok
Shelves: owned-books, 2-stars
I'm confused.
Maybe this book wasn't meant for me.

My third Atwood and by far my least favourite.
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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

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