The Australian newspaper has described Charlotte Wood as "one of our most original and provocative writers.”
She is the author of five novels and a book of non-fiction. Her latest novel, The Natural Way of Things, won the 2016 Indie Book of the Year and Indie Fiction Book of the Year prizes, was shortlisted for the Stella Prize and the Victorian Premier’s Literary Award, and longlisted for the Miles Franklin. It will be published in the UK and North America in 2016. Charlotte was also editor of the short story anthology Brothers and Sisters, and for three years edited The Writer's Room Interviews magazine. Her work has been shortlisted for various prizes including the Christina Stead, Kibble and Miles Franklin Awards. Two novels — The Children and The Natural Way of Things — have been optioned for feature films.
Perhaps this was too clever for me. I loved parts of it but I found the abrupt, fragmented shifting between pasts and presents difficult to work with. Overall I have a feeling of "I don't really get it". I can tell you what happened in the story which outlines a dysfunctional woman living her life pretty much by rote, pretty much according to other people's desires and expectations and looking only for a sense of security- to be tethered I think. She has messed up relationships with men and they go back to her childhood when her mother resented her and strangely tried to change her gender.
The gender bit i an odd touch and not really explored. I don't know anything about the author's personal story so I don't know if there's some sort of experience/memory behind that but on it's own merits it seems weirdly underdeveloped. Mabe that's the point. The protagonists emotions being muted and contradictory fits with the story but made it hard for me as a reader to relate to anything. I enjoyed Jilly and her overly generous pours of in, for all that she was just a cameo. All the parent-child relationships in the book reek with Freud. I think that's where I'm not "getting it" because I think Freud is not just nonsense but now really outdated nonsense. I realise this book was written in 1998 but even so. Even then he was already passe, and the cool people were into Jung (not that I have time for Jung either).
I'll still read other books by Charlotte Wood (probably). This was her first and we all start somewhere. I'm not being snarky I honestly hold open the possibility that this book was better than I think and merely inaccessible to me (a bogan, an autistic, a philistine). I've learned that my first impressions of things often turn out to be wrong a decade or so later.
A short novel, only 192 pages, and impossible to put down, the writing is so beautiful it was a joy to read for the writing alone.
It is difficult to say much about this book without giving away the theme, which gradually makes itself apparent as you read and which had me comtemplating the consequences long afterwards. This is my second reading and I know I will read it again some day.
Also highly recommended are Charlotte Wood's more recent and I think even better novels, The Submerged Cathedral, one of my favourite books ever, and The Children.