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The Natural Way of Things by Charlotte Wood
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The Natural Way of Things (2015)

by Charlotte Wood

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3142353,498 (3.75)52
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    The Handmaid's Tale by Margaret Atwood (Anonymous user)
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» See also 52 mentions

Showing 1-5 of 23 (next | show all)
Pitched by most reviewers, inevitably, as like ‘The Handmaid's Tale in the Outback’, this is an engaging feminist paranoid fantasy about male violence and control, quick to read and more nuanced than it initially appears. It starts in medias res and we have to piece things together as we go; which is fun, but Wood never quite delivers on the intriguing set-up, and it's not even really clear what exactly we're being asked to believe has happened, let alone how believable that might be. But watching our characters get broken down and discover their inner reserves of strength (or not) is grimly satisfying – indeed, sometimes a little too inspirational – and Wood cranks the plot developments confidently. So if this is the sort of thing you like, then…well, then this is the sort of thing you'll like. ( )
  Widsith | May 9, 2019 |
I have decidedly mixed feelings about this book. I think it was a mistake to sell it as a dystopian fantasy - there is nothing in it that requires any imaginative leaps, but instead we have a moving and well written story set in what is almost the real modern Australia.

The plot centres on two young women Yolanda and Verla, who wake up from a drug-induced sleep in a bleak prison camp in rural Australia where their heads are shaved, they are forced to wear bonnets that restrict their vision and uncomfortable old fashioned clothes, while being locked into converted dog kennels at night. It soon emerges that what links them and their fellow captives is that they have all spoken about their sexual relations with rich and famous men. The guards are the brutal but weak Boncer, the apparently hippie-ish but self-serving Teddy and "nurse" Nancy who appears to have no medical knowledge.

The book gets more interesting when it becomes clear that the guards have also been deceived, food and power supplies run out and they only survive because the resourceful Yolanda discovers how to use some abandoned rabbit traps to hunt for food. Yolanda becomes increasingly wild, and Verla gradually loses her conviction that her politician lover will rescue her.

While the relentlessly bleak storyline makes this a difficult read, I thought it worked very well, and it is not difficult to imagine this kind of thing happening in a world so driven by hate-fuelled populism. ( )
  bodachliath | Apr 3, 2019 |
Oh my god, this book. Full disclosure, I won this book in a Goodreads Giveaway, but it was already on my to read list. This book is frightening and scary and so good. Wood's prose is visceral and evocative, yet sparse and economical. It's not 5 stars because I was left with a lot of logistical questions; I'm not one to demand closure from a novel, but I would have liked a few more bits of information thrown in so I could better piece together some type of theory about the ending. ( )
  Katie_Roscher | Jan 18, 2019 |
This was a harrowing survival story about ten girls who are drugged and taken to an abandoned sheep farm in the Australian Outback, where they are kept imprisoned by an immense electrified fence circling the compound. The girls' only commonality is that they were all involved in public sex scandals. Their captor is an impersonal corporation, which has imprisoned them for unspecified reasons, and their guards turn out to be as much prisoners as they are when the power is turned off and the food stores start to run out. The ordeal takes a different psychological toll on each character, with some breaking down and others learning how to survive off the land they are stranded in. This was often a difficult read, but also sometimes quite beautiful in its description of the landscape and the animals living it, and the transformation of the two main characters as they rejected the misogynist narrative that had landed them in this place and reverted to their more essential selves was very compelling. I did want to know more about the why of the girls' imprisonment, what the company's reason was for punishing these particular women, and how this was perceived in the outside world. Still, by keeping the focus narrow and keeping the reader in the dark as much as the characters are, we feel like we are imprisoned as well. ( )
  sturlington | Dec 16, 2018 |
Interesting concept however I lost interest just before the end. ( )
  madhatter73 | Sep 19, 2018 |
Showing 1-5 of 23 (next | show all)
Novelists have always put their heroines through awful ordeals. But over time, these tribulations change. Where the 19th Century was filled with fictional women trapped in punishing marriages — think of Middlemarch or The Portrait of a Lady — today's heroines face trials that are bigger, more political, and more physically demanding. They fight in hunger games.

This fight takes a different form in The Natural Way of Things, a ferocious new novel by the Australian Charlotte Wood whose writing recalls the early Elena Ferrante — it's tough, direct, and makes no attempt to be ingratiating.

Set in a dystopian backwater, her short, gripping book begins as an allegory of thuggish misogyny then evolves into a far stranger and more challenging feminist parable.
 
The sly and devastating ending makes the point: Ladies, you have been warned.
added by MissWatson | editThe Economist (Jul 23, 2016)
 
An engrossing novel set in the barren Australian Outback in which women are held captive, victims of a violently misogynist system.
;;;
Surreal yet intensely vivid, the novel is disturbing and enthralling. It makes its point—that “it was men who started wars, who did the world’s killing and raping and maiming”—plainly, just short of perfervidly. Haunting, imaginative language brings the characters’ madness and suffering to life.

An absorbing plot, lyrical prose, and discomfiting imagery make Wood's novel decidedly gripping.
added by Nickelini | editKirkus Reviews (Jun 16, 2016)
 
Wood, whose previous novel was the Miles Franklin shortlisted Animal People, carefully cultivates indelible images of the women, the compound and increasingly grotesque scenes — such as the creation of a Franken-doll from hair and rabbit furs, for instance. The Natural Way of Things is a novel to provoke thought, conversation, disgust, anger and concern, a work that will haunt the reader with its poetry and the stark truths buried within Wood’s brilliant exploration of a toxic culture in extremis.
 
Despite its overt message, the novel seldom feels programmatic because of Wood's gorgeous, elliptical style.
 
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So there were kookaburras here.
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Book description
Two women awaken from a drugged sleep to find themselves imprisoned in a broken-down property in the middle of nowhere. Strangers to each other, they have no idea where they are or how they came to be there with eight other girls, forced to wear strange uniforms, their heads shaved, guarded by two inept yet vicious armed jailers and a 'nurse'. The girls all have something in common, but what is it? What crime has brought them here from the city? Who is the mysterious security company responsible for this desolate place with its brutal rules, its total isolation from the contemporary world? Doing hard labour under a sweltering sun, the prisoners soon learn what links them: in each girl's past is a sexual encounter with a powerful man. They pray for rescue - but when the food starts running out it becomes clear that the jailers have also become the jailed. The girls can only rescue themselves.

The Natural Way of Things is a gripping, starkly imaginative exploration of contemporary misogyny and corporate control, and of what it means to hunt and be hunted. Most of all it is the story of two friends, their sisterly love and courage.
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"Two women awaken from a drugged sleep to find themselves imprisoned in a broken-down property in the middle of a desert. Strangers to each other, they have no idea where they are or how they came to be there with eight other girls....In each girl's past is a sexual scandal with a powerful man. The Natural Way of Things is a gripping, starkly imaginative exploration of contemporary misogyny and corporate control, and of what it means to hunt and be hunted. Most of all, it is the story of two friends, their sisterly love and courage."--Author's website.… (more)

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