THE NATURAL WAY
She hears her own thick voice deep inside her ears when she says, 'I need to know where I am.' The man stands there, tall and narrow, hand still on the doorknob, surprised. He says, almost in sympathy, 'Oh, sweetie. You need to know what you are.'
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, 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 scandal 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.
With extraordinary echoes of The Handmaid's Tale and Lord of the Flies, The Natural Way of Things is a compulsively readable, scarifying and deeply moving contemporary novel. It confirms Charlotte Wood's position as one of our most thoughtful, provocative and fearless truth-tellers, as she unflinchingly reveals us and our world to ourselves.
THE SATURDAY PAPER: Best three books of 2015
THE MONTHLY: James Bradley's review
FIVE OF THE BEST: Readers voted The Natural Way of Things into ABC TV's The Book Club Five of the Best for 2015.
2SER RADIO: With Andrew Pople on Final Draft
ZED BOOK CLUB: With Sky Kirkham on 4ZZZ
THE BOOK CLUB ABC TV: Panel discussion of The Natural Way of Things - watch online
THE SATURDAY PAPER: Profile by Sarah Price
SYDNEY MORNING HERALD / THE AGE: Kerryn Goldsworthy's review.
SYDNEY REVIEW OF BOOKS: Rosemary Sorensen's incisive, rigorous review of The Natural Way of Things.
THE SATURDAY PAPER: The Natural Way of Things reviewed here.
SYDNEY ABC RADIO DRIVE: Richard Glover talks to me about The Natural Way of Things
THE AUSTRALIAN: A review by Portia Lindsay
BOOKS & ARTS DAILY: Kate Evans interviewed me for the Radio National program here. A longer version was broadcast on BooksPlus here.
DEVOTED ECLECTIC: Writer Elizabeth Lhuede reviews The Natural Way of Things on her blog.
SYDNEY MORNING HERALD: Susan Wyndham interviewed me about The Natural Way of Things
THE WEEKEND AUSTRALIAN: Literary editor Stephen Romei on The Natural Way of Things.
ANNE SUMMERS REPORTS: Caroline Baum interviewed me about
The Natural Way of Things here.
'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 ... what keeps all this from seeming doctrinaire is the book's sheer imaginative intensity. Wood's writing crackles with vivid precision ... Yolanda and Verla strip away the historical veneer of female subservience. They recreate themselves based on a deeper, more complicated vision of the natural order, one that grasps the bond between all living beings. I'd like to tell you that this is a happy ending, but Wood is too honest to offer anything so reassuringly easy. Even as her heroines begin a radical new way of living, Wood knows that the natural way of things is as risky and wild as it is free.'
- John Powers, NPR Fresh Air
'A haunting parable of contemporary misogyny, The Natural Way of Things ... is The Handmaid’s Tale for our age of sensational media and reality television. Like Margaret Atwood’s dark vision of religious dictatorship, it is a preview of what could happen to women who rock the boat, resisting predation or asserting their own sexual freedom ... Like the surreal prison itself, Ms Wood’s writing is direct and spare, yet capable of bursting with unexpected beauty ... The sly and devastating ending makes the point: Ladies, you have been warned.'
- The Economist
'Wood takes apart the mentality of patriarchy not with a scalpel, but an axe. However, the axe cuts deep ... The Natural Way of Things is chillingly dark and unfashionably didactic. But it’s also compulsively readable, and bears its load of significance with effortless power. The fury of contemporary feminism may have found its masterpiece of horror.'
- The Guardian
'The latest from Australian novelist Wood (Animal People) is allegory at its best, a phantasmagoric portrait of modern culture's sexual politics textured by psychological realism and sparing lyricism.'
- Publisher's Weekly
"At once brutal and beautiful ... Surreal yet intensely vivid, the novel is disturbing and enthralling .. An absorbing plot, lyrical prose, and discomfiting imagery makes Wood's novel decidedly gripping."
- Kirkus Reviews
'It’s rare to pick up a novel and from the opening pages be not only gripped by the story on the page but also by the keenness of the intelligence and audacity of the imagination at work ... one hell of a novel by one of our most original and provocative writers.'
- Stephen Romei, The Weekend Australian
'The Natural Way of Things is a virtuoso performance, plotted deftly through a minefield of potential traps, weighted with allegory yet swift and sure in its narrative advance. As an idea for a novel, it’s rich, and to achieve that idea the writer has been courageous. Her control of this story is masterful.'
- Rosemary Sorensen, The Sydney Review of Books
'This is an extraordinary novel: inspired, powerful, at once coherent and dreamlike ... The Natural Way of Things recalls all the reading you've ever done on the subjects of capture, isolation, incarceration, totalitarianism, misogyny, and the abuse of power. It's thought-provoking in all directions.'
- Kerryn Goldsworthy, The Sydney Morning Herald / The Age
'Riveting ... the kind of book you inhale in a sitting. It leaves you woozy and disoriented, surprised to find yourself in mundane surroundings rather than sweltering in the desert heat'
- The Saturday Paper
"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."
- Portia Lindsay, The Australian
" Bold, provocative, startling and thoughtful, The Natural Way of Things is what fiction should be."
- Kylie Mason, The Newtown Review of Books
"A unique and hypnotising work ... an unforgettable story. Wood is a gifted and inventive writer whose characters shock and surprise. Five stars."
- Anastasia Gonis, Good Reading magazine
'‘The qualities I most admire in a novelist are courage and artistry: the courage to venture alone into dark and difficult places, and the artistry to bring back something of genuine worth. Like the young heroines of this novel, Charlotte Wood has become a hunter-gatherer, going into risky, frightening and sometimes horrific terrain, turning a little bit feral, to return with a work of art that is full of power and anger and raw earthy treasure. As a man, to read it is as unsettling as receiving one piece of bad news after another. It is confronting. Yet anyone who reads it, man or woman, is going to be left with a sense that a long-hidden truth has been revealed to them. The Natural Way of Things is a brave, brilliant book. I would defy anyone to read it and not come out a changed person.'
- Malcolm Knox, author of The Wonder Lover
‘A fully imagined dystopian parable, vivid, insightful, the voices of young women echoing through the gum trees...’
- Joan London, author of The Golden Age
‘You won’t read another book like it this year. Or ever.’
- Tegan Bennett Daylight, author of Six Bedrooms
‘Few other novels have captured the stain of misogyny quite like Charlotte Wood's The Natural Way of Things. Wood's is a tale
of survival in a world where captivity takes many forms; where power is a negotiation not just between prisoner and persecutor
but of how far some women are willing to go in order to be free. Terrifying, remarkable and utterly unforgettable.’
- Clementine Ford
‘Charlotte Wood's book is a howl of despair and fury; but it is also that most rare and powerful of creations, a dystopian fiction that is
perfectly judged, the writing controlled, the narrative engrossing and the language both searing and sensual. You can't shake off this novel,
it gets under your skin, fills your lungs, breaks your heart. As allegory, as a novel, as vision and as art it is stunning.’
- Christos Tsiolkas, author of Barracuda
‘There are so many layers at play in Charlotte Wood’s extraordinary new novel, The Natural Way of Things, and around its taut and razor-sharp nightmare is the implicit awfulness of everything not quite said, not quite presented, not quite explained. This is a stunning exploration of ambiguities – of power, of morality, of judgment. With a fearless clarity, Wood’s elegantly spare and brutal prose dissects humanity, hatreds, our ambivalent capacities for friendship and betrayal, and the powerful appearance – always – of moments of grace and great beauty. The book’s ending undid me through the shape of the world it reveals as much as its revisions of escape and survival. It will not leave you easily; it took my breath away.’
- Ashley Hay, author of The Railwayman’s Wife