Sunday 21 February 2016

The Natural Way of Things

The Natural Way of Things was all over the best of 2015 lists a few months ago, and I suspect it will pop up on many award lists this year, it has already made the Fiction Shortlist for the Indie Book Awards and the 2016 Stella Prize Longlist (Update- The Natural Way of Things won the Stella Prize). I was sorely tempted. And I really loved the cover. I became even more tempted. I bought a copy for a friend, and then I had to buy a copy for me too.  I'm glad I did, although it's certainly not my usual fare, rather far from it actually. 

It's a mystery of sorts. Two young women wake up in an unknown place in unknown clothes. It's obvious fairly quickly that things are not right. 

She got out of bed and felt gritty boards beneath her feet. There was the coarse unfamiliar fabric of a nightgown on her skin. Who had put this on her?

But it's not just these two young women, Yolanda and Verla, in this remote place in outback Australia, there are other women. It's hard to say more than that about the plot really, without giving too much away. 

It's a sparse, unappealing story in some ways- profane, violent, mean, it makes for very uncomfortable reading at times. And yet I didn't stop reading, I couldn't. I had been warned that some "old ladies" didn't like it at all, and didn't finish it. I can see how it isn't a book for everyone. Still it's a powerful story and well written. 

Clouds collect and steepen, build then collapse, silver empires rising and falling in the vast blue skies. 
Even within this most Australian of novels there are mentions of Paris that made my heart swoon. Verla has stood before The Lady and The Unicorn at Musée Cluny. I tried to do that in 2013, but it was visiting Japan at the time. As you read the cover design becomes even more intriguing. I think it's one of the most perfect book cover designs ever. Big call I know. 

This has been my first taste of Charlotte Wood, although I've been meaning to read her for several years. I saw her talk at a Melbourne Writer's Festival quite a few years ago now.  I'm glad I've finally had the opportunity to read her writing, and of course look forward to checking out her other books. 

Hear a fascinating RN interview with Charlotte Wood talking about The Natural Way of Things (there are however some specific discussion of plot points). And another RN podcast of Charlotte Wood talking about 5 works of art that helped inspire The Natural Way of Things, it's very fascinating, and explains the yellow bus.

1 comment:

Deb Nance at Readerbuzz said...

Most perfect cover is quite a big call. And a big recommendation.

But I'm quite the scaredy-cat reader. Not sure if this one would work for me. Just reading your synopsis scares me a bit.