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Bodies of Light Hardcover – 3 Apr 2014


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Product details

  • Hardcover: 320 pages
  • Publisher: Granta (3 April 2014)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 184708916X
  • ISBN-13: 978-1847089168
  • Product Dimensions: 14.3 x 2.4 x 22.2 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (30 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 139,776 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

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Product Description

Review

'A powerful polemic... The writing is concise and powerful; colour coming from Moss's language. The story ends with you wanting more' --Independent on Sunday

'Thought-provoking and illuminating... this meticulously researched novel offers an intriguing portrait of Victorian society' --Daily Mail

'This is an exciting moment in Sarah Moss's career. Her third novel confirms the richness of her concerns and it sharpens our sense of her steely, no-nonsense voice. Historical detail is vividly and feelingly done. Moss produces well-crafted, deeply researched, hard-working novels about hard-working women' --Guardian

'A poignant, well-written tale of a woman's attempts to escape the powerful chains of family' --Sunday Times

'Wise and tender… Moss's style is measured and refined. A very accomplished piece of work' --Financial Times

'What begins as a novel pinned on feminist history is actually a tale that holds up a mirror to the female psyche. Moss pays attention to her history, but it is this human message - that principles along are not enough - which resonates with the reader' --The Times

'The award-winning author of Night Waking is back with an historical novel' --Diva

'What begins as a novel pinned on feminist history is actually a tale that holds up a mirror to the female psyche. Moss pays attention to her history, but it is this human message - that principles along are not enough - which resonates with the reader' --The Times

'The award-winning author of Night Waking is back with an historical novel' --Diva

'A wonderful book... Bodies of Light is not just well-researched and beautifully written, it succeeds in capturing the real nuances of being a woman doctor, now as then. This is no small achievement.' --Gabriel Weston, The Lancet

'The award-winning author of Night Waking is back with an historical novel' --Diva

About the Author

SARAH MOSS was educated at Oxford University and is currently an Associate Professor of Creative Writing at the University of Warwick. She is the author of two novels: Cold Earth (Granta 2010), and Night Waking (Granta 2012), which was selected for the Fiction Uncovered Award in 2011; and the co-author of Chocolate: A Global History. She spent 2009-10 as a visiting lecturer at the University of Reykjavik, and wrote an account of her time there in Names for the Sea: Strangers in Iceland (Granta 2012), which was shortlisted for the RSL Ondaatje Prize 2013.

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Customer Reviews

4.3 out of 5 stars
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

20 of 21 people found the following review helpful By Susie B TOP 100 REVIEWER on 6 April 2014
Format: Hardcover
Beginning in Manchester in the mid 1850s, Sarah Moss's third novel focuses on the Moberley family and, in particular, on Alethea Moberley, the elder daughter of Alfred and Elizabeth. Alfred Moberley is an artist, interested in elegant compositions, who paints in the Pre-Raphaelite style and who has a clear eye for beauty; however, his wife Elizabeth, like her mother before her, spends her days visiting the slums, helping the poor and campaigning against child prostitution - all very worthy activities, but ones which she carries out with an evangelical zeal, to the detriment of her two children: Alethea (Ally) and May. Towards her daughters, Elizabeth is extremely strict; she gives them practically no physical affection, she refuses them warmth, and only allows them to wear plain clothes and eat plain, wholesome food, continually reminding them that they are so much better off than the poor wretches who live in the slums. May, the younger daughter, does not allow her mother's zeal to affect her too badly, and she manages to escape the many chores her mother expects her daughters to perform, spending some of her time posing as a model for an artist friend of her father's; but Ally, desperate for her mother's love and attention, strives to live up to her mother's expectations, to the serious detriment of her physical and mental well-being. When her mother decides that Ally, an intelligent and hard-working student, should aim to train as a doctor, Ally devotes herself to her studies, working through the night to achieve good grades - but can Ally, who is overworked, under-appreciated and suffering from bouts of hysteria, ever hope to meet the exacting expectations of her mother? And should she try so hard to do so?Read more ›
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By GrrlScientist on 21 April 2015
Format: Paperback
Bodies of Light by Sarah Moss is a historical novel set in 19th century Manchester. As we follow the growing-up years of the main character, Alethea "Ally" Moberly, until she earns her medical degree, we learn about the social and legal plights of women during the early suffrage movement in Britain. We also become acutely aware of the truly terrifying male attitudes towards women, particularly those held by the all-male medical establishment who were spectacularly ignorant of the female body.

The novel begins when artist Alfred Moberly weds Elizabeth. Throughout the book, Alfred works as an increasingly successful designer of elegant rooms and ornate fabrics for wealthy matrons. In stark contrast, his wife Elizabeth, austere and frugal, is a religious zealot and social activist devoted to feeding the destitute, to saving prostitutes, and to achieving equality for women. Motherhood was the last thing on her mind.

This strongly character-driven story focuses on the first-born Moberly daughter, Alethea and, to a lesser degree, her younger sister, May. Alethea -- meaning "truth" -- is intense, driven and very intelligent -- so much so that she wins a scholarship that allows her to become one of the first female students to read medicine in London. Yet despite her academic and intellectual strengths, Ally is emotionally fragile, exhibiting a life-long pattern of self-harm and experiencing frequent, debilitating anxiety attacks -- thanks to her mother's physical cruelties and endless harsh criticisms. In contrast, younger sister May is more resilient, appearing to survive Elizabeth's severe child-rearing practices unscathed.

Ally's true passion was learning, so it was Elizabeth, not Ally, who decides that she should become a medical doctor.
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7 of 8 people found the following review helpful By Lady Fancifull TOP 500 REVIEWER on 25 July 2014
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
I'm at a loss to know where to start to adequately praise this excellent, layered novel from Sarah Moss, who has the stunning ability to write novels `about deep and complex stuff' , engage with both the heart and the head, create real, properly dimensional, complex characters, write beautifully and unindulgently, and do all this within the discipline of a pacey narrative drive

Moss's territory is the complex lives of girls and women, caught between their own personal identity, their calling, vocation and creativity, and the counter-pull, whether of a society which limits and curtails women, or the counter-pull imposed by the biology of mothering and the fierce demands of children

I read, some time ago, Moss's last book, Night Waking, which I found brilliant, distressing, disturbing, but for me, there were some irritations, which pulled me back from 5 stars. Night Waking concerned a professional couple, with 2 small children, engaged in their work on a Scottish island. There was the tension of the children, affecting, differently, the mother and the father, with the mother least able to `follow her own star'. That book also twinned a long ago thread from the nineteenth century. And in fact, that thread skeins back to Bodies Of Light, her latest book. Though there is no need to have read the previous one. Except, you might later want to. Or indeed, as I shall do, revisit the earlier one.
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