The Natural Way of Things

Let me say first off, huge congratulations to Charlotte Wood for winning the Stella Prize with this much-lauded novel, The Natural Way of Things, and her inspirational award speech. This is without doubt a powerfully written, deeply interesting novel, a grim, meaty fable set in the not-too-distant future, where a group of young women (all survivors of some sexual scandal or another) find themselves imprisoned in a remote, dystopian location.

There's been a lot of buzz around this book and I was very keen to read it (thanks to Fiona, my hairdresser, who passed it on to me). And there is much to admire -- the concept is strong, the writing is lean and springy, the setting both beautiful and frightening. I'm really glad I read it, and Charlotte Wood deserves every award she gets!

But for some reason I couldn't quite lose myself in this novel. Maybe I'm just at a place in my life where I can't handle too much darkness, and I'm turning away in self-protection, in case I get swallowed up? Maybe I'm just a lazy reader at the moment, looking for cheap comfort? Sometimes I felt frustrated with the women -- they were so judgmental of each other, and they submitted so passively to their imprisonment -- if this was a YA novel, they would have been plotting escape in the hundred pages! The Natural Way of Things remains a remarkable achievement. But it's just not the book for me right now, and that's okay.

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