My first audiobook of the year and a pretty great one to start with.
Maps Of Our Spectacular Bodies
Something gleeful and malevolent is moving in Lia’s body. It’s learning her life from the inside. It shape-shifts down the banks of her canals, leaks through her tissue, nooks and nodes. It taps her trachea like the bones of a xylophone. It’s spreading.
This is Lia’s story. From the perspective of the thing that’s killing her.
When Lia finds out that her cancer is back, she tries to keep the landscapes of her past, her present and her body separate; for the sake of Iris, her daughter, living out the last of childhood, and for her husband, Harry, desperate to keep their lives and his tiny garden flourishing.
But bodies are porous, unpredictable places; they harbour characters ancient and new, loved and forgotten – there to taunt or defend. Chemotherapy, a toxic red boy on a beast of a bike, rushes in to purge the place, singing strange medical hymns. Matthew, her first love, lurks around her lungs like a fossil, deep and secret as their shared moments in the parish. Meanwhile, her mother bites her bible tongue and tries to make up for the lost time.
As Lia’s condition worsens, the narrator inside her strengthens; the boundaries between her past, her present and her body begin to leak and spill. She is faced with urgent questions about what it means to let go, to forgive and die with grace.
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This is the kind of book that I usually wouldn’t gravitate to, I find with this genre of writing that I have to be quite particular about what I read, and this book was not at all on my radar. In a strange turn of events I happened to read a magazine article about it and then it popped up as an audiobook and I thought why not give it a chance. I am so happy that I did give it a chance because this is an absolutely fantastic work of art.
At its simplest form this story is about a family coming to terms with a cancer diagnosis and trying to find solace in each other, but what is amazing about this story is that it gives voice to the illness spreading through Lia, it explores Lia’s past whilst exploring what’s happening inside her, and it plays with words and imagery in a way that is just a delight to experience. It is so different to anything else that I have read and I love that there was a very unexpected nature to the writing, you have an inkling of where you may end up but the road had all sorts of twists and turns.
I have to say I expected this to be a much more sombre read, I feel like maybe because I was experiencing this through an audiobook and because of the mirth of the voice in the body, I never felt it get too harrowing. Don’t get me wrong there were some heartbreaking situations but then that voice would come back and add a witty remark, something to make you laugh or smile even though the situation might not call for it. It is very well done.
The narrators for this audiobook were also perfect for their roles. Lydia Wilson and Tamsin Greig did a brilliant job and their voices complimented each other for the roles each played. Lydia gives voice to Lia and what happens with her and her family but Tamsin gives voice to what is happening in her body and this dual narration works so well. Especially as you get to the end of the story and you can visualise how much it takes over from Lia.
Honestly, I am so glad that I read this, it is an unusual but utterly enthralling book that experiments with form and challenged me in a way that I loved. I am looking forward to picking up a print copy of this book just to see what that adds to my experience of the book.
1 thought on “Audiobook Review | Maps Of Our Spectacular Bodies”
This sounds really different and very good. I’m going to add this to my TBR.
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