Wednesday, March 29, 2017


The Natural Way of Things
Charlotte Wood
Europa Editions

Ms. Hen read this novel because she had learned that it is considered one of the best of 2016. At first, it was difficult for Ms. Hen to become engrossed in the book, but once it happened, she was entranced.

It’s hard to get situated in THE NATURAL WAY OF THINGS. Ms. Hen didn’t know where the characters were or where they had come from. And before she started reading the novel, she had no idea it took place in Australia, so she had to get used to the Australian slang and flavor.

To make the review short: This novel is similar to THE HANDMAID’S TALE, THE LORD OF THE FLIES, and CRACKS, but in Australia, with lots of rabbits. This novel is not for the weak or squeamish. A bounty of perversion lies between these pages.

The main character, Yolanda, wakes up to find herself held captive, along with several other young women. They find out that they all have the fact that they were involved in sex scandals in common, in varying degrees. Yolanda and Verla become friends, and they and the other women are forced to march while chained together in the hot sun. They are held by Boncer and Teddy, the guards. None of them truly knows why they were sent there.

The group is far in the outback, and are trapped by an electric wire fence. Nobody can leave, so they don’t try. Eventually, the food runs out, and the electricity stops, and the women are left to scramble to find sustenance. Yolanda discovers the rabbit traps. All the women start to go insane a little: they acquire unique pets.

The natural way of things is that the women take care of the aspects of life that are important, like birth and death and meals and making sure life runs smoothly, even though it seems as if it could fall apart at any moment.

Ms. Hen could only find one mention of a hen in this novel, but it is a beautiful passage:

“The girls trooped in, staring at the poor bitch. Mostly, the staring was out of pity, but Yolanda felt some other instinct shivering too, same as happened among the hens in her nana’s chook yard. The button eyes taking a good look, circling, sizing up the weak. Looking around to see who might go in for a lunge, for the first darting, investigating peck.”

No other hens appear in the novel; they are in a remote location, and not on a working ranch. But the dream of fresh food haunts the women, and drives Yolanda to become a hunter of rabbits, to become feral. The other women look at her and don’t know how she would survive in the civilized world after her transformation.

Ms. Hen was haunted by this novel, but at the same time, she would tell anyone she knows who reads good books to read this because it is visceral and poignant and important.

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