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Bodies of Light [Hardcover]

Sarah Moss
4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (18 customer reviews)
RRP: £14.99
Price: £10.49 & FREE Delivery in the UK. Details
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Book Description

3 April 2014
Bodies of Light is a deeply poignant tale of a psychologically tumultuous nineteenth century upbringing set in the atmospheric world of Pre-Raphaelitism and the early suffrage movement. Ally (older sister of May in Night Waking), is intelligent, studious and engaged in an eternal - and losing - battle to gain her mother's approval and affection. Her mother, Elizabeth, is a religious zealot, keener on feeding the poor and saving prostitutes than on embracing the challenges of motherhood. Even when Ally wins a scholarship and is accepted as one of the first female students to read medicine in London, it still doesn't seem good enough. The first in a two-book sequence, Bodies of Light will propel Sarah Moss into the upper echelons of British novelists. It is a triumphant piece of historical fiction and a profoundly moving master class in characterisation.

Frequently Bought Together

Bodies of Light + Cold Earth + Night Waking
Price For All Three: £24.07

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  • Cold Earth £7.99
  • Night Waking £5.59

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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: 21.8 x 13.8 x 2.8 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (18 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 20,311 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Product Description


'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

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

4.4 out of 5 stars
4.4 out of 5 stars
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
18 of 19 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Bodies of Light 6 April 2014
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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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
By Lady Fancifull TOP 500 REVIEWER
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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9 of 10 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Bodies of Light 24 April 2014
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
This is the third novel by Sarah Moss, following her debut, “Cold Earth,” and “Night Waking.” It is linked, loosely, to “Night Waking,” in that May Moberley features as a character in the historical aspect of that novel and is the sister of the main character in “Bodies of Light.” However, this is not a sequel, or indeed really a prequel, and it is not necessary to have read the wonderful “Night Waking,” before reading this – apart from the fact that you will have missed a wonderful read. However, the joy of discovering an author is that you can go back and re-discover their past work and this moving and poignant novel is certainly a great introduction to this author.

Most of the book is set in Victorian Manchester and begins with the marriage of Elizabeth Sanderson to Alfred Moberley. Elizabeth’s mother is heavily involved in religious works and charity and has brought up her two daughters, Elizabeth and Mary, to be serious social campaigners. Alfred, who is an artist and a designer of rooms and fabrics, seems to be ill-suited to Elizabeth from the start. His tastes are ornate, Elizabeth’s simple and frugal. He takes tea with wealthy women who wish to have a beautiful dining room and she spends her time at the Manchester Welfare Society in social campaigning. The fact that Elizabeth’s father has purchased their marital home is merely passed over in a brief comment; but you later feel it may have a great deal to do with why this young designer, not yet established, had proposed to his young bride.

The couple’s first daughter is Alethea (Ally), followed by May. From the start, Elizabeth feels trapped by her baby, unable to live up to her own mother’s harsh demands and this sets her on a difficult path with her children.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Truth Shall Set Us Free
This is well-researched and well-written historical fiction, detailing the struggles of women in Victorian Britain to take control of their bodies - by rescuing young girls from... Read more
Published 5 days ago by gerardpeter
3.0 out of 5 stars Three Stars
Very difficult to get into this book. Still not sure it was worth the effort
Published 10 days ago by Mrs. Marjory Haddow
4.0 out of 5 stars Four Stars
An enjoyable read.
Published 1 month ago by Mrs Christine Long
5.0 out of 5 stars Thoughtful historical novel
Very interesting exploration of mother/daughter and male/female relationships , set against the lives of different classes of women in the Victorian period and in particular the... Read more
Published 1 month ago by Mrs R M Palmer
3.0 out of 5 stars Well written and an education too.
Well written and really took you to the period. Not a book for those wanting fast moving story but it will remind you how far women have come in a short period of history.
Published 1 month ago by Mrs. W. E. Ransome
4.0 out of 5 stars A satisfying novel
I enjoyed this novel and was pleased that it had a happy ending and not an unresolved one which I had feared.
Published 1 month ago by Mrs Christine D Pleasants
4.0 out of 5 stars Enjoyable
Interesting story. Sorry it ended and I am left wondering what happens next.
I will read more by this author.
Published 1 month ago by Rowan
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
Published 2 months ago by Compulsive reader
4.0 out of 5 stars The sins of the mother.
Set in Manchester in the 1870s, the book opens with the marriage of rising young artist Alfred Moberley to Elizabeth, a devout Christian, rigidly raised by her mother to care more... Read more
Published 2 months ago by Sue Kichenside
4.0 out of 5 stars I bought this after reading a good review in the weekend papers
I bought this after reading a good review in the weekend papers, though when I got round to reading it I couldn't remember what it was about! Read more
Published 2 months ago by L. Gardiner
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