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Read of the Week: Bodies of Light by Sarah Moss

Written by The Reader, 1st March 2017

This week's Read, Bodies of Light by Sarah Moss, comes recommended by Communications Assistant, Emma.

"Mamma is troubled to see signs of nervousness and self-indulgence in Ally's disposition … Ally must learn self discipline as Mamma herself learnt it … Mamma took a candle from her desk and lit it at the fire.

Blisters, Mamma says, are a traditional prescription for weak nerves."

They say you should never judge a book by it's cover but it was the beautifully intricate patterns, deep blues and mysterious motifs of Sarah Moss' Bodies of Light which first caught my eye while browsing the shelves of Simply Books in Bramhall. Intrigued to find that the book was based in nearby Manchester I was convinced and soon discovered upon reading it that the aesthetic beauty and design on the outside had also crept under the covers with sometimes sinister consequences.

Bodies of Light is a dark, brooding novel which manages to intertwine Pre-Raphaelitisim, the early suffrage movement, social injustice of nineteenth century working classes, mental health, struggles of postnatal depression and motherhood, and raises questions about emotional neglect and physical abuse all within the tortured mind of a young woman called Ally.

fb_img_1488364347481"The thing in her throat rises up so she can't breathe. She heard her vocal chords roaring as she tries to suck air in … the kaleidoscope moves faster … her heart … banging on her breastbone like a fist on a window … This is it, madness"

Dutiful daughter to a promising artist and a zealous mother, Ally and her younger sister May are torn between the alluring artistic world of their father and the righteous vocation of their mother to improve the living standards of women in the working classes, and often find themselves neglected by both.

A deeply poignant and atmospheric narrative, Moss plunges the reader into the clamour and agitation of the time, pulling the reader's heartstrings in all directions so that neither sympathy nor blame cannot be laid at any one door. But ultimately our feelings are entwined beyond return with the fortunes of Ally who endeavours upon her own vocation to become a true hero of social history.

Bodies of Light is no light read but an all-consuming beast that will sometimes shock and even disturb, confronting histories that should not be brushed under the carpet. This is a story that will linger long after the final pages are closed and drive home a renewed appreciation for those things which we sometimes take for granted – the NHS, protected rights for women and children – and inspire new respect for those who made personal sacrifices for their creation.

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