Books·Canadian

Bodily Harm

Margaret Atwood's 1981 novel is about a young journalist whose life has begun to shatter around the edges.

Margaret Atwood

Rennie Wilford is a freelance journalist who takes an assignment in the Caribbean in the hopes of recuperating from her recently shattered life. On the tiny island of St. Antoine, she tumbles into a corrupt world where no one is what they seem, where her rules for survival no longer apply.

This gripping novel of intrigue and betrayal explores human defensiveness, the lust for power both sexual and political, and the need for a compassion that goes beyond what we ordinarily mean by love. The enigma unfolds as it would for any innocent bystander swept up by events, bringing along the scruples, and the fears, of the past. (From Emblem Editions)

Read an excerpt | Author interviews

From the book 

It was the day after Jake left. I walked back to the house around five. I'd been over at the market and I was carrying the shopping basket as well as my purse. There wasn't as much to carry now that Jake wasn't there any more, which was just as well because the muscles in my left shoulder were aching, I hadn't been keeping up the exercises. The trees along the street had turned and the leaves were falling onto the sidewalk, yellow and brown, and I was thinking, Well, it's not so bad, I'm still alive.

My next-door neighbour, an old Chinese man whose name I didn't know, was tidying up his front yard. The yard in front of my house had been covered over with paving stones so you could park a car on it. That meant the street was going up rather than down, and in a few years I'd have to move; though I'd stopped thinking in years. My neighbour had pulled up the dead plants and was raking the earth into a raised oblong. In the spring he'd plant things I didn't know the names for. I remember thinking it was time I learned the names, if I was going to live there.


From Bodily Harm  by Margaret Atwood ©1981. Published by Emblem Editions.

Author interviews

Atwood on the importance of modern female writers. 2:25