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The Body Lies
Cover of The Body Lies
The Body Lies
A Novel
by Jo Baker
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A dark, thrilling new novel from the best-selling author of Longbourn: a work of riveting psychological suspense that grapples with how to live as a woman in the world—or in the pages of a book—when the stakes are dangerously high.
When a young writer accepts a job at a university in the remote English countryside, it's meant to be a fresh start, away from the bustle of London and the scene of a violent assault she is desperate to forget. But despite the distractions of her new life and the demands of single motherhood, her nerves continue to jangle. To make matters worse, a vicious debate about violence against women inflames the tensions and mounting rivalries in her creative-writing class. When a troubled student starts turning in chapters that blur the lines between fiction and reality, the professor recognizes herself as the main character in his book—and he has written her a horrific fate. Will she be able to stop life imitating art before it's too late? At once a breathless cat-and-mouse game and a layered interrogation of the fetishization of the female body, The Body Lies gives us an essential story for our time that will have you checking the locks on your doors.
Read by Imogen Church, Deborah McBride, Sam Woolf, and Simon Ludders, with Julie Maisey
A dark, thrilling new novel from the best-selling author of Longbourn: a work of riveting psychological suspense that grapples with how to live as a woman in the world—or in the pages of a book—when the stakes are dangerously high.
When a young writer accepts a job at a university in the remote English countryside, it's meant to be a fresh start, away from the bustle of London and the scene of a violent assault she is desperate to forget. But despite the distractions of her new life and the demands of single motherhood, her nerves continue to jangle. To make matters worse, a vicious debate about violence against women inflames the tensions and mounting rivalries in her creative-writing class. When a troubled student starts turning in chapters that blur the lines between fiction and reality, the professor recognizes herself as the main character in his book—and he has written her a horrific fate. Will she be able to stop life imitating art before it's too late? At once a breathless cat-and-mouse game and a layered interrogation of the fetishization of the female body, The Body Lies gives us an essential story for our time that will have you checking the locks on your doors.
Read by Imogen Church, Deborah McBride, Sam Woolf, and Simon Ludders, with Julie Maisey
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  • From the cover Excerpted from The Body Lies


    The beck is frozen into silence. Snow falls. It muffles the roads, bundles up the houses, deepens the meadows, turns the river black by contrast. It settles along the grey-green twigs and branches of the beech wood, sifts like sugar to the hard earth below—and dusts the young woman curled there, her skin blue-white, dark hair tumbled over her face. She doesn't say a word; she doesn't even shiver now. Her breath comes thinly.

    A deer, scraping at the snow for roots, stops, and snuffs the air, and scents her, and turns to move silently from the place.

    Above the canopy, the sky is clear, the moon stands full. An owl scuds across the meadow, drops to kill a vole. In the shadow of the beech tree, there is stillness, not a breath. The body lies.

    *

    It was on the busy, dirty Anerley Road in South London that the man hit me. It was the nineteenth of September, it was around quarter past seven in the evening, and I was walking downhill from the train station to our flat after a shift at the bookshop. The weather had been fine in the morning when I set out for work, but now it was raining, and I wasn't dressed for it.
    I had just crossed the railway bridge when I noticed someone running up the hill towards me. He was wearing black trackies and a blue anorak; he had the hood up, toggle pulled tight against the rain, and was running easily, a steady lope. He said something as he went by. I didn't quite catch it.

    If I had been at a distance, watching me, rather than being stuck inside my own head, I would have seen the man slow down, come to a halt, and turn, and stare. Then I would have seen him run back down the hill towards me. I'd have seen something like that, anyway.

    But as it was, I just saw the streaks of streetlamp on the pave­ment, and felt the hush of cars passing in the rain, and felt the cold damp seeping through my jacket; my hands, in my pockets, rested against the bulge of my belly. I was thinking that my back ached, and that I really needed new shoes and that tomorrow, on my day off, I'd finally screw up courage to phone Mum; if I left it any later it'd be a whole heap of new offence for her to take. I became aware of the sound of running footsteps behind me, and I moved aside, towards the dark trees, to let what I thought was another runner past.

    But it was the same guy. He ducked in front of me, smiling. He spoke again, and this time I caught what he was saying. He was telling me what he'd like to do to me.

    I went to dodge past him, but he sidestepped into my path. I backed away, but he came with me; every move was anticipated. And all the time he was talking, his breath on my face. The smell of him. He forced me further back, between the dark trees, up against the wire fence. Then his body was on mine; I could feel his hard-on pushing at my belly. I shoved at him, struggled, but was hamstrung by strangeness: I couldn't process. I thought, I thought, This is really happening. I thought, I should be handling this better.

    "Get off me." I pushed at him.

    A hand mauled at my breast.

    "Fuck's sake, get off me."

    And then a hand clamped over my mouth. He was telling me what he was going to do to my body, and I thought, There is noth­ing I can do to stop this. Cars streamed past behind him in the wet; someone walked by on the far side of the street, umbrella tilted in our direction. I was pinned. I couldn't shout. I could hardly breathe. I twisted my head aside, desperate for breath. His hand slipped, and I got my teeth around it. I bit.

    He swore and jerked away. His weight was off me....
About the Author-
  • JO BAKER was born in Lancashire and educated at Oxford University and Queen's University Belfast. She is the author of the best-selling novel Longbourn, as well as A Country Road, A Tree; The Undertow; The Telling; The Mermaid's Child; and Offcomer. She lives in Lancaster, England.
Reviews-
  • Publisher's Weekly

    Starred review from April 1, 2019
    Still traumatized three years after being assaulted during her pregnancy near her South London home, the unnamed novelist who narrates this lyrical suspense novel from Baker (Longbourn) leaps at the offer of a university lectureship in rural Lancashire, even though it means she and her toddler son will be separated from her husband, who can’t leave his teaching job in London. The move will indeed change everything—but hardly the way she hopes. For starters, their rose-covered rented house redefines remote. And then there are the unanticipated challenges presented by her creative writing students—in particular, the most talented but also most troubling one, Nicholas Palmer, whose seemingly autobiographical work in progress centers on a young woman who dies under mysterious circumstances. Though Nicholas starts pushing for an inappropriate personal relationship with the narrator, his writing skill makes her loathe to establish firm boundaries—a decision that backfires catastrophically after a Christmas party. Soon she’s fighting to save her job, her marriage, and even her life. All too plausible, Baker’s powerful tale is at times heart-rending to read—and impossible to put down. Agent: Clare Alexander, Aitken Alexander Assoc.

  • AudioFile Magazine Imogen Church leads a cast of five gifted narrators in this gripping psychological thriller in which an unnamed Englishwoman--a professor of creative writing--confronts the inner workings of the mind of a male student. The student, Nicholas, archly portrayed by Sam Woolf, reveals bit by bit through his sexually violent stories that he carries a horrible secret from his past. Through her narration, with its tentative starts and stops and slowing pace, Church exposes the professor's increasing vulnerability in the face of what seems to be a perverse stalking. Deborah McBride also does an excellent job of voicing Meryl, the only American in the group. First-class suspense will keep listeners on the edge of their seats. D.G.P. � AudioFile 2019, Portland, Maine
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A Novel
Jo Baker
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