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Bodily Harm (Contemporary Classics) Paperback – 19 Sep 1996

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Product details

  • Paperback: 304 pages
  • Publisher: Vintage; New Ed edition (19 Sept. 1996)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0099740818
  • ISBN-13: 978-0099740810
  • Product Dimensions: 19.6 x 12.7 x 2 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 2.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 409,912 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Margaret Atwood is the author of more than thirty books of fiction, poetry and critical essays.

In addition to the classic The Handmaid's Tale, her novels include Cat's Eye, shortlisted for the Booker Prize, Alias Grace, which won the Giller Prize in Canada and the Premio Mondello in Italy, The Blind Assassin, winner of the 2000 Booker Prize and Oryx and Crake, shortlisted for the Man Booker Prize. Her most recent novel, The Year of the Flood, was published in 2009. She was awarded the Prince of Asturias Prize for Literature in 2008.

Margaret Atwood lives in Toronto, Canada.

(Photo credit: George Whitside)

Product Description


"One of the most richly entertaining novels I've read for years" (Guardian)

"A beautifully written, witty and often poignant account of a brave woman's attempt to come to terms with her situation and recover her spirits" (Nina Bawden Daily Telegraph)

"What makes her book so considerable an achievement is the mature, informed accuracy of its view of life. What makes it so exhilarating is the profusion of tough wit and precise poetry that everywhere transforms its black bulletins from documentary into art" (Peter Kemp Times Literary Supplement)

"The only way to describe my response to Bodily Harm is to say that it knocked me out... She tosses off perfect scenes with a casualness that leaves you utterly inprepared for the way these stories seize you" (New York Times)

Book Description

'As swift-moving as the best thriller, clipped and laconic, yet deeply and richly sensitive' - Sunday Telegraph

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Customer Reviews

2.8 out of 5 stars
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

16 of 16 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on 16 Nov. 2000
Format: Paperback
I would consider myself a 'fan' of Margaret Atwood, but not of this novel. The protagonists in her other works, while humanly flawed, usually have redeeming qualities, and draw you into their lives. There is nothing in any of the characters in this book that enabled me to care about them. Its only redeeming feature was, for me, the description of the political instability of the island, which had great contemporary comparisons. Those who, like me, embraced works such as 'The Handmaid's Tale', 'The Robber Bride', et al, should not take this as a guarantee of enjoyment. I guess it's her ability to write about completely different subjects, and in completely different styles, that make her such a great writer, but this one did very little for me, I'm afraid.
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12 of 12 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on 15 Nov. 2001
Format: Paperback
If you like a story with a beginning a middle and an end you may be disappointed with this work. Despite Atwood's accepted prowess as a teller of tales, she is a Booker Prizewinner, I was less than satisfied with this one. It is the story of a travel journalist who is on assignment in a small country not far from Barbados and Grenada. While Rennie is on the island there is an attempted coup to overthrow the government. Rennie is involved with the insurgence who claim the president is corrupt, which he probably is. Atwood uses flashbacks to explain what makes Rennie who she is. This is expertly done though the book seems to be more a profile of a damaged lady than the promised thriller.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Shopper 79 on 11 July 2010
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
When I received the book I thought I'd just read the beginning to get an idea of what it was like, and suddenly found myself several pages in. I am a great Margaret Atwood fan, and I am aware some find her stories lacking in beginning, middle and end - but I love the way she writes stories about people from where they are, giving us a snapshot of their lives at that time - be it for a few months or a few weeks. Whose story really starts at the beginning of an event and finishes at the end? This is written more in the 'jumping into the life' style of 'Life before man' or the 'The Edible Woman' rather than the more traditional story style of 'Oryx and Crake' or 'The Handmaids Tale'.

I enjoyed the intrigue of this book and would recommend it to others.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Sigrid on 20 Nov. 2008
Format: Paperback
I guess I made a bad choice - I have not read anything by this author before. The book was good enough to finish (just), but not good enough to make me want to read another one. Surprising, given all the plaudits she gets. Perhaps the emperor has no clothes?

Well crafted in the technical sense, yes, but I didn't see much else to the book. The humour was insufficient to keep me amused and I could not identify at all with the damaged central character. The chaotic background of a Carribean island in political turmoil was well enough done - but that's nothing new.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 38 reviews
27 of 30 people found the following review helpful
This book is difficult to read. 4 July 2000
By Auliya - Published on
Format: Paperback
Alright, maybe you have to be extremely sophisticated to understand this book. Or maybe I just wasn't up to the task. I adore Atwood's work, largely speaking. I love the play on gender issues, the windows onto the character's personal worlds, the suspense and tension Atwood can introduce and tease into page-turners... But this book? Maybe it's because it spent so much time developing a "politics" sub-plot, or because it took place on an island that was difficult for me to render inside my head... but I just never understood what was going on. Never exactly understood, never could get "connected" enough with anything to care. That's so weird, since I get completely wrapped up in her other stories and novels, and I've read them all. I don't want to give this book a thumbs down, for fear that it's my own lack of skill *as a reader* that made the book so opaque and boring... but at least this review might give you some information pertaining to the apparent difference in this work from Atwood's others, you know?
8 of 9 people found the following review helpful
Shoulda stayed at home girl! 1 Mar. 2003
By Cipriano - Published on
Format: Paperback
I enjoyed this novel on many levels. It is a great story, skilfully woven, laced with trademark Atwood satiric wit and all of the brand-name dropping you've come to expect: Drano, Holiday Inn, McDonald's, Elastoplast, Kentucky Fried Chicken, Bank of Nova Scotia, Chatelaine magazine, Ovaltine, Crest toothpaste, and not just soup, but Campbell's Chicken Noodle. I love how she does this, it seems so... Canadian!
The strength of Bodily Harm is the way Atwood delves deep into the psyche of the protagonist, the young female Toronto journalist, Rennie Wilford. Flashback portions reveal Rennie's history, connecting us to her narrow/stifled/religiously-hypocritical upbringing in backwater Griswold Ontario. It's a history she resents. Flashbacks illuminate her relationship history also. We really get to KNOW Rennie, and the more light that Atwood throws across this life, the more Rennie emerges as someone unfulfilled at her core.
And now Rennie's life is on the fritz. She is coming to terms with her partial mastectomy and the recent breakup with Jake, two problems that she imagines are directly related to each other. She becomes obsessed with the word "malignant" and feels that everyone dear to her (even her own body) is rejecting her. On top of this, someone has just broken into her apartment and, instead of robbing her, has left behind an ominous threatening message.
Change of scenery is badly needed.
So Rennie accepts a Caribbean assignment to the island of St. Antoine, and now comes the part of the story that could be summarized by saying "Shoulda stayed at home!"
This "tropical paradise" is really an economically depressed dump! And her small-town Ontario naivete is no match for the shifty characters she meets on this island. She is soon intricately involved in the political turmoil of St. Antoine, and her trip ends up being everything BUT the paradise and recuperation she was hoping for.
Illegal smuggling, bloodshed, betrayal, malnourishment, imprisonment... forget emotional improvement, physical survival becomes the issue!
It's as though Rennie goes to St. Antoine because of bodily harm from within, and finds that she must leave the island because of bodily harm from without. There's more to the story than this for sure, but this is an interesting aspect of it. The island did nothing to solve her problems, but it certainly made her see those problems for what they were... a part of her life, but not the whole.
6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
Strange but Compelling 29 Aug. 2000
By Amazon Customer - Published on
Format: Paperback
Though I wouldn't consider this my favorite Atwood novel, it is a good one, nonetheless. Atwood has a way of involving you with her characters, even if you don't necessarily like them. I couldn't put this book down, because I was so intent on finding out the fate of the heroine. Part mystery and part romance but all introspective, I'd recommend it.
7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
A Deep look into someone else's life 11 Jan. 2000
By A Customer - Published on
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
At first I did not like this book and almost put it down after the first few chapters, too much jumping around from past to present. Then it started to entice me as it got more and more personal with the character. The character reveals her secrets and feelings and it almost leaves you feeling guilty of voyeurism. I at first thought the jumping around back and forth with background on the character to be confusing, then I started noticing that the past and the present action all tied in with relevance. This book is a hard read, but well worth it.
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
Rennie as the 'every woman' 18 Jun. 2001
By "cilice" - Published on
Format: Paperback
Although I have not read many Atwood novels, when I pick up one of her books I expect to be provoked intellectually and emotionally. Bodily Harm kept me reading well into the night, and I was amazed at Atwood's ability to write so evocatively. I noticed early on that while I did not like Rennie, the main character, I did empathize with her. Before breast cancer hits her, Rennie is the 'every woman' and not in a positive sense. Breast cancer and the ensuing chaos in her life leads her to question her purpose as a survivor. The theme of finding a purpose in the midst of tragedy is used often in popular fiction, and Atwood does a good job with it. The synopsis of this book sounds trite, but in actually, the book is very dense and stimulating. It is replete with symbolism and meaning, and I will be reading Bodily Harm again.
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