Charlotte Wood, The Natural Way of Things, $29.99 (August 2016)
I’ve made a vow to always the buy the book which wins the Stella Prize for women’s fiction, because it’s such a terrific addition to Australia’s literary life. The 2016 prize went to well-known author, Charlotte Woode, and the book is causing the same arguments amongst my reading friends as The Slap did a few years ago.
Two friends said is was the best and the most important book they had read for years; two couldn’t finish it, one commenting that it was taking misogyny to new levels, making The Handmaid’s Tale look quite tame. It is the story of a group of young women who are kidnapped, taken to a remote location from which escape proves impossible, starved, forced into hard labour, denied any comfort or dignity. It tells the struggle of individual women to survive, avoid further torture and/or rape by the men who are their guards. The misery is all-consuming; the small victories of the women hardly compensate for the unrelenting horror of the experience, although there is some hope glimpsed in the friendship of two of the women.
I’m still not sure what I think about it, but given the controversy that it is causing, the way in which it has polarized readers, perhaps it is important to read at least one book a year that sets your teeth on edge. I just know I was terribly relieved when I got to the end of it.