I have never read a book like Charlotte Wood’s ‘The Natural Way of Things.’ It made me nauseous, it’s violent compelling fantasy was horrifically routine at times, and showed the strength and the vulnerability that comes with being the object of hatred.
It’s a controversial thing to say that women are hated.
Despite the fact that two women a week are slaughtered by men in Australia every week, in some places up to 92% of women report being assaulted by men in their lifetimes, and women and children are raped worldwide as a weapon of war – despite this, it’s still controversial to suggest that the men who beat and kill women, in fact hate them.
‘The Natural Way of Things’ is a book not so much about men’s hatred, but about women’s struggle to survive being the imprisoned objects of hate. Ten women are ripped from their homes, lives and lovers and dumped in some sort of barbaric work camp. Their heads are shaved, they are dressed in coarse, identical, drab smocks and they are chained together as they are degraded and punished while they work.
It’s not clear exactly what they are working for (except that they are laying a road for a large company called Hardings) or how long they will be there. The only thing that is clear is the reason they are there. All ten women were embroiled in sex scandals involving high profile men. And just as it is in our non-dystopian, 2016 world; the women often come out of scandal far worse off than the men.
‘The Natural Way of Things’ is not a comfortable book. There were many moments where I had to swallow hard, and scrunch up my fingers, and only half read a paragraph before going back to reread it because I didn’t want to take it all in at once. It’s hard to read not just because the men who chain up, beat, threaten and starve these women are so cruel; and so blatantly treat these women as animals that they own and are entitled to, but because the women are all complex, damaged and desperate to survive. And, they do whatever it takes to keep the pieces of their tortured minds together and to stay alive.
There are many, many stories throughout history of women surviving – most of us are here because women in our lives have survived violence and a hostile society run by men. ‘The Natural Way of Things’ is an extraordinary story of survival that shows it for the bloody, undignified and compromised thing that it is.
I recommend reading ‘The Natural Way of Things’ in one sitting. If you’re like me, and you have a brain that likes to take bits of writing and then stick them on a show reel that plays over and over in your mind, then you don’t want to put the book down when they are enduring another torturous day or bloody bashing.