So about a month ago I won a copy of The Natural Way of Things by Charlotte Wood from Allen and Unwin. This is the first of Charlotte’s books that I’ve read, and I was a little nervous as I opened the first page and began to read. I was nervous because I’d read so much of the publicity around it; interviews with Charlotte, reviews by other people. I knew it was going to be a hard book to read. I wondered if I was up to it.
First – an overview:
Ten women find themselves locked up in an asylum, somewhere in the outback. Victims of wealthy men, these women have all been involved in sexual acts – some consenting, some not – which have resulted in shame for themselves while the men who took part experience no such repercussions.
There are two men present at this asylum, the gaolers, though the women soon learn that the men are just as much prisoners as themselves when week after week whoever is in charge fails to return, and their supplies of food run dangerously low.
The women all manage this knowledge; that they are trapped, perhaps indefinitely, in different ways, and it was interesting to see the ways in which the women survive as best they know how.
Opening the pages I was not disappointed. It was a hard book to read, but not as hard as I imagined… I was up to reading it. I read it in two days. It wasn’t eye opening, exactly. It was all the things you read about in the newspaper, the things that women know as just another aspect of life – even those of us lucky enough not to experience such things on a regular basis. Someone we know has experienced it. Not the being locked away in some Outback Prison of course, but the rest of it – the misogyny, the knowledge that as women we are not granted the same freedoms most men enjoy – still, in the 21st Century.