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The Natural Way of Things (2015)

by Charlotte Wood

Other authors: See the other authors section.

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5223147,359 (3.76)68
"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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» See also 68 mentions

Showing 1-5 of 31 (next | show all)
A compelling read. I'm probably nit-picking but shortfalls for me were in the narrative arc and some of the details. While I accept that some of the women could have been permanently dis-empowered, it seemed very odd to me that they did not overpower their captors, short out the fence and escape. We really only get to know (just a little) about Yolanda and Yerla but I wanted to know more about the others so that I had more clues about why they were captives. But maybe clever, more observant readers don't need to know more. I once lived in the bush on rabbits and these days it doesn't take long to exhaust the supply. Ditto the inexhaustible supply of mushrooms. Seemed very out of sync that Yolanda would go out to inspect her traps with traps hanging from her belt. The traps would have been set. But these are very minor irritations. The book has a life of its own in a world of its own. ( )
  simonpockley | Feb 25, 2024 |
This novel won the Stella Prize for the best Australian novel by a woman, and it thoroughly deserved it. To me it reads like a cross between Lord of the Flies and The Handmaid's Tale. It is gripping in the telling with a pair of unforgettable female characters in the feral Yolande and the aloof Verla, along with a dark-hearted villain in Boncer.

The novel starts with Verla and Yolande awakening from a drugged slumber to find that they have been captured. They and a group of other young women are taken off to detention in the outback somewhere. They are trapped inside an electric fence, shaven-headed, forced to wear filthy clothing and eat disgusting food, quartered in kennels like beasts and subject to the depredations of the violent Boncer and the nihilistic Teddy.

The reasons for their capture and detention are never quite clear, but a common thread seems to have been that each was sexually profligate in some fashion. Perhaps this is some fierce backlash by a moralistic patriarchy determined to put them in their place.

The women madly scramble to survive any way they can, and each gradually starts to occupy a place in their microcosm of society: cook, hunter, gatherer, fire-tenderer, concubine. As they combine forces, they find that they can push back against their captors, but can they ever actually escape?

There are enough references to popular culture in this book to make it clear that Wood's dystopia is set in our near future, which leads the reader to contemplate the forces at work in our society that could realistically lead to this outcome: brutal detention, violence against women, a dominant religious patriarchy, government secrecy, imprisonment without trial, the deprivation of civil liberties - all of these elements exist in today's Australia, which just makes Wood's novel all the more real. ( )
  gjky | Apr 9, 2023 |
A tense thriller reminiscent of Atwood's A Handmaids Tale. Charlotte Wood does an excellent job describing the inner emotional worlds of the young women. The changes in the characters as they cope with their situations are disturbing but intimately familiar and I found myself accepting each of these women's new identities. Seeing a part of me in each of their transformations. This story will stay with you for a while, and it should. ( )
  Carmentalie | Jun 4, 2022 |
Poetic language, imaginative images, but often ugly as if to shock, was the author's priority. "The big cheeked girl rocked on her haunches and groaned."

In short, I didn't get into it and only listened to 1/8 parts. ( )
  Okies | Apr 29, 2022 |
It was a 4 for me until the ending. Phew. ( )
  SarahRita | Aug 11, 2021 |
Showing 1-5 of 31 (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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Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Charlotte Woodprimary authorall editionscalculated
Piper, AilsaNarratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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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.

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