It’s International Women’s Day and I thought it might be nice to write about words, in a book, that are written by a woman. Good idea, right?
Charlotte Wood’s The Natural Way of Things was an unputdownable book, for me. It wasn’t that I couldn’t wait to find out what would happen next, it was that I almost didn’t want to know.
I often felt a sense of dread as I turned the next page – surely, I asked myself, it couldn’t get more horrible? It often did – but I couldn’t leave the story unfinished in my mind.
It’s a strange quandary to find yourself in: craving relief, even if it’s in the shape of denial, but knowing that there’s something so valuable here that you must see it through to the end.
And so, through my need to reach a point of understanding, my need to learn why Wood had written this book in this way, I found an irrepressible drive to keep reading.
The thing that fascinated me most about this narrative was its brutal honesty. Nothing about it was obscured or softened; Wood wrote with unapologetic accuracy.
This is also what challenged me as a reader. There is a relentlessness to the portrayal of harsh realities within this story and within our own world. It had me shaking my head, solemnly recognising significations of situations and experiences that are shockingly real in patriarchal society, but also wondering how presenting a story in this way might be of benefit.
By the end, I knew.
This book, filled with characters that embody multitudes, characters so real that they could reach out and touch you, characters that are as unapologetic as the author is, shatters silence.
This book also, somehow, builds a sense of female strength and resilience that is as great in magnitude as the story is disturbing.
The problematic treatment of women (both by men and by other women) in our society is more openly addressed now than it used to be. However, many of the approaches that are taken when addressing this plethora of issues simultaneously reduce or quieten the topic. This book, with its furious honesty, does not.