Bodies of Light by Sarah Moss

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Review: Oh Sarah Moss! How wonderfully you write and how nice it feels to be wrapped up in your words like a blanket! Bodies of Light was an intriguing, wonderfully written, and complex story of female roles in the 19th century, of women fighting to find their place in professional and academic settings than being restricted to domestic roles, of a dysfunctional family, a domineering mother, of mental health and its stigma, of art and its appreciation, and ultimately a journey of a woman to attain her goal.
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‘Ally likes Latin. It seems more like Maths than like French, a language with an integral logic. English words are slippery, leaning on each other and on unspoken presences, on ghosts, for their meanings. Latin is so tightly woven that it barely needs punctuation, the relationships between words so clear that the order in which they come doesn’t matter. Life would be much easier if we spoke Latin.’​

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Moss’s story is genre-defying. It’s not historical fiction in its traditional sense. It’s a cerebral, almost academic take on feminist roles in the 19th century in England told through the characters of a single family. And while it does take a while to become interesting, once it does, there was no looking back. The subtlety of the time period this book is set in is beautifully captured. It is atmospheric not in an overwhelming way, but in a very organic, believable, and realistic way. The nuance and attention to detail in ample portions. The discussion on prostitution, metal asylums, poverty and women in academia was so incredibly fascinating and possibly the aspect I enjoyed most in this book.
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Where Bodies of Light slightly fell short, and in this I can’t help but compare it to her later book, The Tidal Zone, was in its characters. While do you eventually really care for Ally and want her to succeed in her life, it was only the second half that the feeling really surfaced. Unlike Adam and Miriam from The Tidal Zone, the characters don’t really step out of the page and are rather confined within the story being told. It also was slow to start, the first few chapters are slightly dull, before it gets interesting. The book also covers a larger timeline in a short length, so many scenes are skimmed over than described.
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If you haven’t ever read Sarah Moss, I’d recommend you read The Tidal Zone first. But if you’ve already read and enjoyed Sarah Moss, there’s a very high chance you’ll enjoy this too!
Rating: 4/5
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