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The Natural Way of Things

​Two women awaken from a drugged sleep to find themselves imprisoned in an abandoned property in the middle of a desert in a story of two friends, sisterly love and courage - a gripping, starkly imaginative exploration of contemporary misogyny and corporate control, and of what it means to hunt and be hunted.

Joint winner of the Prime Minister's Literary Awards 2016 - Fiction category Winner of the 2016 Stella Prize

She hears her own thick voice deep inside her ears when she says, 'I need to know where I am.' The man stands there, tall and narrow, hand still on the doorknob, surprised. He says, almost in sympathy, 'Oh, sweetie. You need to know what you are.'

Two women awaken from a drugged sleep to find themselves imprisoned in a broken-down property in the middle of nowhere. Strangers to each other, they have no idea where they are or how they came to be there with eight other girls, forced to wear strange uniforms, their heads shaved, guarded by two inept yet vicious armed jailers and a 'nurse'. The girls all have something in common, but what is it? What crime has brought them here from the city? Who is the mysterious security company responsible for this desolate place with its brutal rules, its total isolation from the contemporary world? Doing hard labour under a sweltering sun, the prisoners soon learn what links them: in each girl's past is a sexual scandal with a powerful man. They pray for rescue -- but when the food starts running out it becomes clear that the jailers have also become the jailed. The girls can only rescue themselves.

The Natural Way of Things is a gripping, starkly imaginative exploration of contemporary misogyny and corporate control, and of what it means to hunt and be hunted. Most of all, it is the story of two friends, their sisterly love and courage.

With extraordinary echoes of The Handmaid's Tale and Lord of the Flies, The Natural Way of Things is a compulsively readable, scarifying and deeply moving contemporary novel. It confirms Charlotte Wood's position as one of our most thoughtful, provocative and fearless truth-tellers, as she unflinchingly reveals us and our world to ourselves.
Booklovers earn $1.45 in rewards when purchasing this title


  • Title: The Natural Way of Things
  • Author: Charlotte Wood
  • Publisher: Allen & Unwin
  • ISBN: 9781760111236
  • Width: 15.3 centimetre
  • Languages: English
  • Format: PaperBack
  • Category: Classic Fiction , Literature
  • Publication Date: 23/09/2015
  • Pages: 320
  • Height: 20.8 centimetre
  • Country of publication: Australia


4/11/2015 9:36:33 AM - Sophie
I loved this book
Whilst I agree it is not necessarily a 'comfortable read' as the subject matter is so political and so brutal, Charlotte Wood's writing and description of the Australian landscape are poetic and powerful and this counterbalances the emotional punch and unsettling nature of the unanswered questions, as does the redemptive power of the female friendship at the centre of this novel. Genuinely unlike anything I have read before, a must-read.

29/09/2015 1:48:24 PM - Skye
So many questions!
So many unanswered questions. How did they get there? How were they chosen, and who by? What happened after? Were they missed? Where's Yolanda? And so many more. I was lucky enough to receive a copy of this book through the Dymocks Booklover program to read and review. I read the book in one sitting. I did want more as I kept reading, I found it an easy read but also was always striving to find out what happened next. Those poor girls, an interesting phrase used towards the end of the book and one I had thought of before then. I loved that they became powerful as the book progressed, yet still prisoners. They were willing to sacrifice their own for "survival". There is so much more to this story that remains untold. Did anyone find the house / property and what was left behind? Because there are just so many unanswered questions I couldn't give a higher rating, however I did enjoy the read.

20/04/2016 1:08:05 PM - Kim
Riveting and thought provoking
I loved this book and could not put it down. It was an interesting take on how fallen women are dealt with by society. I think the women involved in difficult relationships with men are still considered sluts by society. Some of them come back from that and some of them don't. We all tend to do as we are told when overseen by a greater force (guards and fences). Maybe we shouldn't.

21/04/2016 7:21:11 AM - Louise
An uncomfortable brilliance
I read this book in one sitting, turned it over, re-read it, and then went on a mission to read every review and analysis of the book that I could find. It disturbed, engrossed, unsettled, infuriated, and vindicated me with virtually every line. This is not a novel to "enjoy", per se, although I have enjoyed reading it very much, now a number of times. On the other hand, when it comes to literature, I don't necessarily, or even regularly, want "enjoyment". I want excellent and tightly written prose, strong characterisation, life-like dialogue, and that force that only comes with a great writer that will not let you sleep until you have finished that book. This book has all of these remarkable qualities in one deceptively simple package. I won't re-hash the plot, which is not only unnecessary but unfair to those who have not read it. I will merely add that the review by Anne Summers, a woman I have revered since first reading "Damned Whores and God's Police" as a very young woman, notes that this is "less of a novel and more of a nail-bomb flung into our comfortable assumptions". I have titled this review, "An uncomfortable brilliance" because this novel shines a light on the darker assumptions of misogyny that still haunt us as modern humans. Ideas such as the responsibility of women to control the behaviour of men (why? are men stupid? selfish? incapable?), that sex is still somehow "scandalous" and that the scandal lies not in the damage done to the woman, but to the reputation of the men, and that women who find themselves in situations where their own integrity is compromised will then find themselves thrown to the keyboard wolves of the Internet, are all explored here. I read perhaps 100 to 150 books a year (perhaps more) and I find a book like this once in five years to a decade. Here is a statement I do not make lightly: in terms of sheer ability and style, I accord Charlotte Wood a place similar to that held by Helen Garner. Not everyone will "like" this book, but I defy anyone to read it and not come out wanting to rave or rage about it.

3/10/2015 9:46:17 PM - Sue
oh dear
I found this writer's style of writing very difficult to read, as it doesn't flow easily. The subject matter was weird, and it ended suddenly with no real explanation of the story or a proper ending. Tegan Bennett Daylight apparently said of this book "You wont read another book like it this year. Or ever" - I only hope that is true, coz it was crap.

13/01/2016 11:24:57 PM - Jacqui
thought provoking
i nearly put this book down a number of times when i first started it. it made me angry, disgusted, sad - and yet, i kept going. it is a story that is complex and heart-wrenching and a difficult read - so many emotions. but, i soon found it hard to put down - the courage and strength the main characters portrayed was inspiring - and finished i did. i have spoken about this book to quite a few people - something i don't generally do - it left a mark don't read this if you are looking for an easy holiday read, but if you want to be moved, this is for you

6/10/2015 1:49:39 PM - Kim
The prisoner
A young woman wakes up in an unknown room, dressed in a strange canvas dress, with none of her belongings. Her head is shaved. Is she in an asylum? It turns out that 10 women have been taken to a remote outback camp surrounded by an electric fence. Their jailers have been supplied with dried food and a belief that the women deserve their punishment, which will last 'until Hardings comes'. As the times drags on, food runs out, the electricity supply to the camp buildings is turned off, and Hardings does not come. This novel has many themes, including the way society blames victims, and strength under pressure. It is a good fast read which leaves the reader with many questions to ponder.

27/09/2015 1:13:24 PM - Jenny
Couldn't be more topical...
The premise of the book is that a group of young women wake up in a farm/prison somewhere in outback Australia, degraded and reduced to conditions of slavery; the connecting factor between them is that they've all been involved in some way in a sex scandal that has hit the media and got the usual misogynist garbage that the media and society itself are so good at going on with as a reward. The book doesn't dwell on this, despite it being a major feature in the blurb -- what it does dwell on is what happens on the farm, which in turn is an allegory for the treatment of women in contemporary society, particularly by men. The two primary characters -- Yolanda and Verla -- contemplate womanhood, their situation, and their relationships with men (spoiler: not good relationships -- the male characters in the book are cruel and exploitative, even when they're sympathetic). I loved the Australian setting -- I'm sick of reading big-ideas books where Aussie authors shy away from our own country and culture, and I thought Wood evoked it very well throughout; voice as well as description. And this book couldn't be more topical here in Australia, with the current discourse and climate around violence against women, and I hope that some of the people who read it use it as a catalyst for change. It's clearly meant to be. If you're looking for things to compare it to, it's got a similar philosophy to books like Atwood's "The Handmaid's Tale" and "The Year of the Flood", or even Emma Donoghue's "Room". Compelling reading, and well worth picking up, but you will want someone else to read it with you, so you can talk about it after. I received a copy of this book from Dymocks and the publisher in exchange for a fair and unbiased review.

20/04/2016 11:54:37 AM - Meredyth
The Natural Way of Things
This was a really terrible book to read. It was of little literary merit for a novel and there was never any sign of hope which made it extremely unsatisfactory. The characters were one dimensional and did not develop. A very poor narrative tale lacking in redemption for any of the characters. Most disappointing.

25/10/2015 8:05:57 PM - Marianne
not a comfortable read
The Natural Way of Things is the fifth novel by Australian author, Charlotte Wood. Verla Learmont and Yolanda Kovacs are two of ten young women who wake from a drugged sleep to find themselves imprisoned in a brutal desert setting. Heads shaved, dressed in rough clothing, existing on a diet of instant noodles, cereal and sour milk, unable to bathe due to scarcity of water, and housed in large kennels, they are stripped of their dignity, subjected to hard labour and harsh treatment by their guards. Their faces are somewhat familiar, and soon enough, they realise what they have in common: each has been involved in a sexual scandal that made them an embarrassment, an inconvenience, to the men involved. Many wonder if they will be rescued; Verla feels sure her lover will come for her; only Yolanda understands that no-one cares enough to look for them, that they will remain at the mercy of their jailers. After some months, the situation changes, and with it, the balance of power. These (often spoiled) young women take on roles they never dreamed of in their privileged former lives: the pressure-cooker situation forces behaviour foreign to them all. The comparison of Wood’s unsettling tale to Lord of the Flies is certainly valid. Readers may feel a little frustrated with the fact that much is left unexplained, to be guessed at by both reader and characters. And while it is definitely not a comfortable read, it is certainly a powerful one. With thanks to TheReadingRoom and Allen&Unwin for this copy to read and review 3.5 stars


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