The Natural Way of Things by Charlotte Wood
Ten young women wake up drugged and in an asylum. Their heads are shaven and they are transported to a remote and isolated area surrounded by electronic fencing. They are forced to exist in humiliating conditions. It’s revealed that they are all connected by their indiscretions with prominent male persons. For this lapse in morality they must pay.
Their freedom, clothes and belongings are taken from them. They are stripped of every vestige of their former life – and their humanity. Forced into hard labour, beaten, starved, and treated worse than wild animals by their two male guards, they finally become animalistic to survive.
The story – which is told in three parts – showcases an accepted and widely encompassing control of powerful men over powerless women. It’s confronting and brutal, primitive, sensual and raw. It attacks the belief that women who seek the
same things as men should be condemned and debased for trying to attain what is claimed as a male prerogative. This is juxtaposed with the resilience and reinvention of victims and the choices they courageously make, regardless of the consequences, to take back control of their lives.
Charlotte Wood’s fifth book is a unique and hypnotising work. Chilling at times in its viciousness, this is an unforgettable story. Wood is a gifted and inventive writer whose characters shock and surprise.
Five stars – Allen & Unwin
Reviewed by Anastasia Gonis