With My Body by Nikki Gemmell – Book Review

With My Body by Nikki Gemmell
Published by Harper Perennial, an imprint of HarperCollins

From the publisher:

A wife, a mother of three, she has everything a woman should want—and yet she has gone numb inside. Locked in a never-ending cycle of chores, errands, and mealtimes, she cannot find a way to live her life with the honesty and passion that once drove her. Even her husband, whom she loves, has never truly touched the core of her being. Only one person has ever come close. In desperation, she returns to the memory of an old love affair—a transformative relationship with consequences she has never fully resolved. Revisiting her past, she will begin an exhilarating journey into her sexuality while finally confronting the hidden truths of her heart.

With My Body would have worked much better had it been written in first or third person. Instead, the entire novel was second person, which takes quite awhile to get used to. It seems that Gemmell is trying to make her unnamed character into every woman, or at least many women, reminiscing about a love affair of the past. This could have been a very successful tact, but there are some strangely specific details, such as her stepmother calling her father Ted instead of Eddie. These details keep our main character from truly becoming every woman, which just makes the second person narration and lack of ever naming the protagonist an occasionally distracting choice. ‘

I also had serious issues with the romanticizing of the protagonist’s great, life-changing affair. This on-going affair happened when she was only 16, and he an adult. This simple detail makes me incredibly suspicious of her claim that he actually cares for her and just adds a general ick factor to the entire thing, making their affair seem that much less sensual.

All this being said, the further I got into With My Body, the more I became caught up in Gemmell’s writing. By the end, I thoroughly enjoyed the book she had put together. I respected the way that the protagonist grew and became more self-aware after reminiscing about the affair of her youth, even if the affair itself bothered me at points. With My Body is not for everyone, but it is a well-written and well-constructed book.

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7 comments to With My Body by Nikki Gemmell – Book Review

  • I would definitely have a problem with the second person. It just makes me audibly uncomfortable. In fact, I came close to having a real visceral cringe while reading the review. Total shame because the plot and what the author explores does seem fascinating.

  • This is one of those subjects that if done right can be very insightful. I think if the protagonist looks back on that relationship and idealizes, but then by the end of the book sees the true consequences that affair had on her life then that levels out the ick factor for me. If it’s just meant to be shocking, but doesn’t carry any substance, that’s when I get annoyed.

  • The ick factor you mention and the second person narrative might be too much for me to want to delve into. thanks for the review

  • Hmmmm… probably a pass for me. :)

  • Although this one doesn’t sound like one that I would prefer, I still think this was a great review-it not only gives us your opinion, but a genuine “feel” for the book as well.

  • This sounds like a great read to me even though I would have wished for a more genuine love affair, 16 just seems young to me to really be a forever memory that stays in your heart.

  • I’m fascinated with this topic, but honestly haven’t seen it done as well as I’d like. Maybe it’s my topic….who knows. Unsure of the 2nd person writing. I saw the book today in Target…and thought of you :).