Thursday, 29 September 2016

The Natural Way of Things - Charlotte Wood

Gosh. Wow. These were the only two words that spring to mind after reading this book. But I have a feeling that they don’t constitute a credible review. I found this to be an extraordinary book and possibly not for the faint hearted for it is not a feel good read. My understanding is that the book has already won an award in the author’s native Australia and I’m not surprised.

It is a disturbing, dystopian work with a premise that should alarm us all. Several girls are kidnapped and imprisoned on what seems to be an abandoned sheep station in the outback and spiral down into degradation and abject desolation. The redemption is ambiguous with intention. For this is not a tale that should leave the reader comfortably believing that they all live happily ever after. It’s almost a Lord of the Flies for the 21st century.

It is an exquisite piece of writing, well crafted descriptive prose and to a certain extent you have to distance yourself from the actual storyline, which is harrowing, to fully appreciate it. 

I found the story to be almost allegorical,  a parable of our time,s which doesn’t make for comfortable reading. There is an undercurrent of anger as much on the part of the writer, I feel, as her characters. None of them, the abducted women nor their jailers, are especially likeable. But the situation into which they all have been thrust defies belief. 

I suppose one of the infuriating things about this book is that it poses questions that maybe have no answers. That isn’t intended as a criticism but it places a high demand on the reader to respond rather than remain passive. It has lot to say about bigotry, feminism, sexism.

This is a very powerful book and I’m not sure I’ve done justice to it with my powerless words. It is a remarkable piece of work which I won’t forget in a hurry.

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