The Natural Way of Things by Charlotte Wood

Published: 1st October 2015 (print)/2nd June 2016 (audio) Goodreads badge
Allen & Unwin/Wavesound Audio
Pages: 320/1 disc – 7hrs (MP3)
Narrator: Ailsa Piper
Format: Audiobook
Genre: Fiction
★  – 1 Star

The Natural Way of Things is at once lucid and illusory, a brilliantly plotted novel of ideas that reminds us of mankind’s own vast contradictions—the capacity for savagery, selfishness, resilience, and redemption all contained by a single, vulnerable body.

Drugged, dressed in old-fashioned rags, and fiending for a cigarette, Yolanda wakes up in a barren room. Verla, a young woman who seems vaguely familiar, sits nearby. Down a hallway echoing loudly with the voices of mysterious men, in a stark compound deep in the Australian outback, other captive women are just coming to. Starved, sedated, the girls can’t be sure of anything—except the painful episodes in their pasts that link them.

Drawing strength from the animal instincts they’re forced to rely on, the women go from hunted to hunters, along the way becoming unforgettable and boldly original literary heroines that readers will both relate to and root for.

Potential spoilers ahead.

I am learning the hard way that acclaimed and well awarded books are often the least enjoyable. People raved about this and it won The Stella Prize and so I finally got hold of a copy and read it. Well, I listened to the audiobook which I think actually made it worse.

It starts off with mystery which is fair enough, but Wood builds it up like there is going to be an answer. I was curious about how these girls had gotten into this situation, who it was that had placed them in the middle of nowhere and for what purpose. What happened was I put up with so much boring nothingness, and instead read an extreme version of big brother where no one gets voted off but instead sit around in their glib new life doing nothing whatsoever and do it with no food.

There are many girls who have been taken but the story is mainly told by two women, both who have different reactions to their circumstances, one becomes stronger and wants to fight back, the other becomes more animalistic as time goes on. There is a little mentioned about the other girls, as well as the “guards”, but none of these characters are that remarkable, it’s a bit unbelievable they even were there running the place in the first place. I kept going through the non-events and the general dull day to day nothing that was probably meant to show just how terrible these girls’ lives had been reduced to, but after a few chapters of it I was over it. I needed something to happen, something more interesting than illness and the ongoing mental reclusiveness of the characters.

I get that it is meant to be profound, and not having answers is ok. We don’t need everything wrapped up in a neat bow. Normally I don’t need answers, and I’m happy to have a bit of mystery or whatever, I think the reason I wanted it this time is because I disliked this book so early on I kept going in the hope I could at least get some answer for why I had to sit through such a boring and, frankly, gross book. A fair warning it is a bit graphic. Wood doesn’t hold back in her descriptions of trapping/cooking rabbits, again, in context I get, and for the emotional and mental state of characters it does fit. But I will say listening to it as an audio was very hard. There’s also some graphic detail about what people do and look like in terms of injuries etc just in case that isn’t your cup of tea.

It was a pain to keep going but I did and not only did it not get better, I feel cheated. In hindsight, I respect the absence of answers. I think not having answers gives it some power that these things could happen, but the fact we’re given almost no reason why any of it is happen irks me. I needed the answers as a reward for putting up with such a boring book.

aww2017-badgeYou can purchase The Natural Way of Things via the following

Dymocks | BookDepository

Booktopia | QBD

Amazon | Amazon Aust

Fishpond | Wordery

Audible | BookWorld



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