Review: Bodily Harm

Bodily HarmBodily Harm
by Margaret Atwood

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Bodily Harm / 0-385-49107-7

"Bodily Harm" is one of Atwood's earlier works, and this sometimes shows through the writing. The grim subject matter (a woman struggling with her own mortality after a bout with cancer) is thoughtfully and carefully explored, but the actual prose is a sometimes lethargic and difficult to wade through.

The main character struggles through the daily routine of her life as a magazine writer, unsure how to break through the haze induced by her struggle with cancer. She has won for the time being, and the cancer is in remission, but her left breast has been removed. She knows that the cancer can and may resurface at any time, but still she finds it difficult to "live for the moment" as everyone exhorts her to do. She struggles with the realization that in some ways she would rather be definitely dying rather than stuck in this limbo were she is expected to feel lucky, happy, and saved - and yet does not feel any of these things.

The bulk of the novel involves her trip to a distant island as a tourist writer, and her immersion in the local political unrest. This is the longest part of the novel, and as the protagonist spirals further into danger she does not immediately flee the country, because her surgery has left her so devoid of feeling that it is easier for her to be swept away than to make any effort to remove herself from danger. As realistic as this may be, the end result is frustrating for the reader, who can easily see disaster coming and will be frustrated at the protagonist's lethargic response to it.

This is a good enough book, particularly if you are an Atwood fan, but I would save this one for last, once you've exhausted all her other fine works.

~ Ana Mardoll

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