The Natural Way of Things (Charlotte Wood, A&U)
The latest novel from the author of Animal People and Love and Hunger is a powerful story of misogyny and corporate control taken to disturbing extremes. Yolanda and Verla wake up drugged and, at first, it seems they are in some kind of institution. However, it quickly becomes apparent that something much more sinister is happening, as Yolanda and Verla find themselves in the company of other captives and their sadistic guards on a remote property. It unfolds that the prisoners all have some kind of public sex scandal in common, and their situation goes from bad to worse: they are threatened, degraded, violated and worked to the bone. As the horror that Charlotte Wood so vividly establishes starts to collapse in on itself, the friendship between Yolanda and Verla—two very different characters and defensive in their own ways—provides an anchor in an increasingly Lord of the Flies-esque situation. Wood’s novel lays bare the rape culture and slut-shaming associated with contemporary misogyny and the tyranny of corporate control over consumers and workers. It is a timely narrative that demonstrates the hunger for survival and escape from these shackles, in a fierce Australian bush setting that for some might represent a sort of freedom.
Portia Lindsay is general manager for Seizure Online and a former bookseller