Charlotte Wood, The weekend (#BookReview)

Book coverAfter reading the first few pages of Charlotte Wood’s latest novel, The weekend, I was starting to wonder how on earth these women, with “their same scratchy old ways”, could be described as “dearest friends”. They seemed so different, and so irritated or, sometimes, cowed by each other’s differences. Where was their point of connection I wondered, besides their late friend Sylvie?

But, let’s start at the beginning. My edition’s back cover describes the set up beautifully: “Four older women have a lifelong friendship of the best kind: loving, practical, frank and steadfast. But when Sylvie dies, the ground shifts dangerously for the other three. Can they survive together without her?” Well, they are going to find out, because the book concerns a weekend – a Christmas weekend, in fact – in which the remaining three come to Sylvie’s beach-house to clean it out for sale. It’s a thankless task at the best of times, so when you get three very different, but still grieving personalities doing it, the stage is set for tension, at the very least.

Who then are these three? There’s retired restaurateur Jude who has had a married lover for over forty years; public intellectual Wendy whose much loved husband died many years ago and who now has the frail, demented dog Finn in tow; and out-of-work actor Adele whose relationship has just fallen apart, leaving her homeless. Wood sets the scene, and establishes their characters perfectly through describing their journey to and arrival at the beach-house (much like the opening title sequence for another house-party story, The big chill.) We quickly learn that Jude is organised, task-focused, financially comfortable and disdainful of other people’s frailties; that Wendy is disorganised and soft, but emotional and loyal; and that vain but always optimistic Adele is seen by her friends as “the child” of the group. While Wendy and Jude work at their Jude-assigned tasks, she can be found reminiscing over Sylvie’s LP collection.

Over the weekend, the women’s friendship is tested to its limits. Early on, Wendy reflects that “it was exhausting, being friends”, while Adele remembers their early years of friendship, and how they “saw their best selves in each other”. But, how honest are they, can they be, should they be with each other? Adele ponders early, that “it was dangerous business, truth-telling”. Over the weekend, of course, some truths come out – what they think about each other, and truths that were supposed to be secrets. And yet, the friendship holds fast:

Because what was friendship, after forty years? What would it be after fifty or sixty? It was a mystery. It was immutable, a force as deep and invitable as the vibration of the ocean coming to her through the sand.

“simple creatureliness”

However, there is a fourth main character in this story – the aforementioned Finn whom Wendy brings with her knowing full well that Jude would not be impressed. But what was she to do? Living alone and unwilling to euthanise him, she had no option. Utterly frail in body and mind, he is a significant character – or, at least, plays a significant role – in the book. This role is bifold. Firstly, we gain more information about the women’s characters and their attitudes to aging and death through their attitudes and reactions to him. His physical and mental frailty, his incontinence, deafness and blindness, confront the women with their own mortality. No-nonsense Jude doesn’t want him and his mess around, and thinks, frankly, he should be put down. She is barely aware of Finn’s importance to Wendy. Adele isn’t enamoured but more tolerant and understanding, while Wendy, for whom Finn was a lifeline after her husband’s death, finds it impossible to think about euthanasia. His presence throughout the novel sometimes mirrors, sometimes opposes the women’s volatile emotional states.

But, the other more interesting role played by Finn has to do with one of the novel’s over-riding themes, one triggered by ageing. It’s the question of what have I lived for, what have I achieved, when have I “finished [my] turn”? Wendy and Adele, for example, both feel they have more to achieve. For Wendy, it’s the intellectual idea she feels she’s moving towards, “the place she had always felt was there waiting for her”, and for Adele, it’s “clawing back her one great moment on the stage”. Jude’s life is more about “gathering experience, formulating opinions, developing ideas” to “fold away and save for” those times her married lover is able to see her. So, the underlying question is: When you no longer have those seemingly limitless goals of youth, what goals do you have, where do they come from, and what happens when you, perhaps, run out of goals or purpose? Finn offers this opposite – “simple creatureliness”, or, just being. This issue of goals and purpose is, I believe, one of the biggest challenges of ageing – alongside the obvious physical ones – and I love that Wood takes it on.

However, she doesn’t stop there, because her women also confront other ageing-related issues – increasing homelessness for older women, the threat of loneliness that often attends age, and coping with technological and cultural change not to mention with children who start to parent you.

To keep this story and its tensions focused, Wood uses the house-party setting, as many other authors have done before including John Clanchy in his novel Sisters (my review). I didn’t much like the melodramatic party scene, involving two interlopers, that occurs near the end, but this is a common trope, I think, in the house-party sub-genre. Overall, I loved the writing. It’s tight. We shift seamlessly between the characters without getting lost, each one nicely differentiated, and there are some spot-on images:

Every time Jude had to hold her tongue, every time she didn’t tell Wendy she should pay him the kindness of letting him die, she felt falsehood pulled tighter like a plastic bag, closer, closer over her mouth and nose. She couldn’t bear it.


Outside the cicadas were filling the still summer air with sound. You must shed the dead skin … The bush was full of insects and snakes reborn, shining with newness. The dried carapaces rustled as the resurrected creatures slithered out of, away from, their dead selves. You had to struggle free from what had protected you.

By now, you may be thinking that this a grim book, but while its intent is serious, Wood’s touch is light, using some humour – sometimes generous, sometimes satirical or ironic – in the telling. This humour – as in the scene describing Adele, in the park, having just peed, running into a theatre producer – keeps these women real and relatable, and the tone edging to hopeful.

You would think that The weekend would be the perfect pick for my reading group, given we are all women not much younger than Wood’s protagonists and that many of us have been friends for thirty years plus. And yet, the responses of the twelve members present at our meeting were mixed. One group was ambivalent, arguing that the characters were too much like types, while the other loved it, believing it captured the dynamics of longtime women’s friendships with heart and humour. You know which group I belonged to – for all the reasons I’ve described above.

Lisa (ANZLitLovers) also enjoyed the book.

Challenge logoCharlotte Wood
The weekend
Sydney: Allen & Unwin, 2019
ISBN: 9781760292010

(Review copy courtesy Allen & Unwin)

The natural way of things: Conversation with Charlotte Wood

I have just returned from an inspiring evening in which we got to see Aussie author Charlotte Wood in conversation with Guardian Australia’s Katharine Murphy. It more than made up for our disappointment last year when Wood had to pull out of the Canberra Writers Festival due to illness. Tonight’s event was presented “in association with the Canberra Writers Festival” and had the support of the National Library of Australia where it was held.  

Charlotte Wood, The natural way of thingsAs the post title suggests, the evening was framed around Wood’s latest novel, The natural way of things (my review), which is partly why I was very keen to go because this is a provocative book that doesn’t leave you in a hurry. Wood started by describing the set-up, and explaining that the main plotline is like any prison novel. In other words, the question is: Will they escape or won’t they? I liked the simplicity of this!

Anger and the book’s genesis

Murphy asked her to talk a little about her comment, elsewhere, that anger had inspired the book. Wood explained that she didn’t realise how angry she was when she started writing the book. She talked about hearing a radio documentary about the Hay Institution whose inmates were described by the government as the “ten worst girls in the state”. The anger-inducing thing is that these girls had all been sexually assaulted in some way, and had been locked up for “being in moral danger”. They were locked up because they were in moral danger? You can see why Wood was angry – why any of us would be – on hearing that. Why were the victims locked up?

Wood then explained that her original story was historical, realist, in style, and it wasn’t working. Then, because when you are writing, “everything is about your book”, she started noticing contemporary stories – the army girl raped by a co-cadet, the woman employee sexually harassed by the David Jones CEO, etc – and decided to try a contemporary approach …

… but, while she was writing it, Julia Gillard became Australia’s first PM, and she saw a photo of Gillard, Quentin Bryce, and Anna Bligh together. They presented such a positive picture of female achievement that she thought her book was no longer needed. We all laughed at that! She then spoke of the hatred directed at Julia and her own distressed reaction to this. This is where her writing comes in: art helps you understand incomprehensible things, she said, you can give them shape.

Later, during the Q&A, she spoke more on the anger issue.  She’s uncomfortable with anger, she said – a little self-deprecatingly. She likes it when the book is described as “ferocious” or “fierce” rather than as “angry”. She talked about the importance of humour, of its being the essential companion to anger. (There is humour in the book, as I noted in my review). She quoted American thinker, Patricia Williams (she thought), who talks of the “gift of intelligent rage”. Wood saw this as anger/rage which encompasses positive energy.

That ending!

The discussion then turned to the ending, and its ambiguity. Murphy worried that Wood seemed to be suggesting that the answer is “separatism, opting out”. The ending is certainly the aspect that gave me some pause. It wasn’t that image that bothered many readers of the women pouncing on the designer handbags. No, for me, as for Murphy, it was the ambiguity. I like ambiguity, but here I was a little uncertain about what I was taking away.

Wood’s response was helpful. She said the book has different endings depending on who you are following, and that some readers come away feeling triumphant, while others feel demoralised. She said that for Yolanda, her only liberation was to “separate” herself, to go feral, to become an animal in fact, but that wasn’t Verla’s answer. This gave me a little structure for my thinking.

While she doesn’t like to talk in terms of messages, she agreed that part of it was that in order to be free you have to separate yourself to a degree from a culture that hates women. This can mean not reading women’s magazines that hurt/harm you, not laughing at sexist jokes, and so on.

She talked about another issue that intrigued me, and that’s to do with the men – the prison guards – ending up being trapped too. This is where the balance of power started to shift a little – and is the part of the novel she liked writing!

Nerdy stuff

Charlotte Wood (Courtesy: Wendy McDougall)

Murphy then asked her “nerdy stuff”, that is, about her writing process. I won’t spend a lot of time on this (though nerdy me was interested too). I’ll just share a couple of comments. One was that although she now has five novels to her name, she is still always unsure when she sits down to write, but one thing experience has given her is that she is now “quicker at diagnosing problems”. She has also learnt more about the “craft” of writing, such as how to shape stories.

She described writing as hard – it’s hard making up stuff out of your head, she said. She knows when she’s got the momentum up – it’s when her current book is in her dreams, when she thinks about it as soon as she wakes up. She referred to her PhD on the cognitive aspects of creativity. She found some commonalities between writers, but knowing what these are doesn’t help you do it, she said! Encouraging eh?

Murphy asked whether she kept a notebook to jot down ideas she comes across, things she hears. She said she does this a bit, but wishes she did notebooks as well as Helen Garner. Mentioning the notebook excerpts in Garner’s latest book, Everywhere I look (my review), she said she admires “the precision of her [Garner’s] observations”.

Plausibility in fiction

Early in the conversation, Wood referred to some readers questioning plausibility in the book. I followed this up at question-time, as it was an issue in my reading group. I loved her answer because – as you regular readers here will see – it concurred with my views!

She said it depends, partly, on the sort of novel you’re writing. She wanted this novel to be strange and weird. Her usual benchmark is to ask what she herself would believe. Her question for readers is: “Are you going with it. If you start worrying about factual details, you risk missing out on what’s true.” Yes! So, in this book, in particular, she didn’t “care” much about plausibility. Her next book is more realist so the facts will matter more, but I got the sense that fundamentally she focuses more on what she is trying to do, to say, than on getting all the facts right.

There was more, but I’ll leave it here on my question – and conclude by saying that Wood came across as warm, natural (!), thoughtful, and openly sharing of herself. This made it a most enjoyable event – the hour went way too fast.

Charlotte Wood, The natural way of things (Review)

Charlotte Wood, The natural way of thingsWell, I wrote this week’s Monday musings on Australian dystopian fiction as a lead in to my review of Charlotte Wood’s award-winning The natural way of things, but I wasn’t expecting to get the perfect intro for my review! In the post’s comments, author and publisher Anna Blay pointed us to an article by Maria Popova in an online digest called Brain Pickings. The article, titled “The Power of Cautionary Questions: Neil Gaiman on Ray Bradbury’s ‘Fahrenheit 451,’ Why We Read, and How Speculative Storytelling Enlarges Our Humanity”, starts with this:

The important thing,” Ursula K. Le Guin wrote in contemplating the cultural role of speculative fiction and the task of its writer, “is not to offer any specific hope of betterment but, by offering an imagined but persuasive alternative reality, to dislodge my mind, and so the reader’s mind, from the lazy, timorous habit of thinking that the way we live now is the only way people can live.” In doing so, she argued, imaginative storytelling can intercept the inertia of oppressive institutions, perilous social mores, and other stagnations of progress that contract our scope of the possible.

I would agree that the thing is “not to offer any specific hope of betterment” but to jolt the reader into thinking about what is, what might be, if we do nothing. It’s certainly how I’d see most dystopian fiction I’ve read, including Charlotte Wood’s novel, but not being a big reader of speculative fiction I haven’t sat down before and articulated it.

So, what is it that Charlotte Wood wants to jolt our minds about? For those of you – overseas readers at least – who haven’t read or don’t know of it, the plot tells the story of 10 women plucked from their normal lives and transported to a nightmarish place in the middle of nowhere – referencing the mythology of the forbidding Australian outback? – where they are imprisoned behind an electric fence and controlled, labour-camp style, by two boorish men, bruiser Boncer and the preening Teddy. The women pass from disbelief and anger, through resignation, to a sort of acceptance and attempt to make the best of their situation. There are shades of Margaret Atwood’s The handmaid’s tale here and also, perhaps of William Golding’s Lord of the flies, but not derivatively. This is very much its own work.

But now, back to my question. Wood’s target is misogyny, and specifically the way it plays out through the scapegoating of women for their sexuality – whether for assaults that happen to them or for sexual activities they may engage in consensually (think affair with a politician or the flight attendant in a “mile-high” situation) but for which the man is let off while the woman is excoriated. Early in the novel each girl is given a “nickname” which “explains” why they are there such as “army slut”, “cabinet minister’s moll”, “airline girl”, “cruise girl” and “football girl”. You get the picture, I’m sure. The girls are also named. Wood does respect and individualise her characters, beyond just being types. There is one other woman in the picture, and that’s Nancy. She’s on the staff with Boncer and Teddy. She dresses as a rather grotesque nurse who looks after the so-called “hospital” – and represents those enabling women who often feel special but don’t realise that they too are under control.

I came to this book ready to love it. Although I’ve avoided reading reviews, I’ve not been able to help hearing all the accolades, and it sounded like a book and topic that would be right up my alley. It is, and I “enjoyed” reading it, but I’m having trouble defining and articulating my somewhat uncertain response to it. I love the heart, I love the desire to attack an issue that’s absolutely critical, I love the overall narrative concept, I was compelled to keep reading, and I thought the ending was powerful. So, why uncertain? I’ll try to tease it out a bit.


There are a lot of characters – the ten captive women, plus Boncer, Teddy and Nancy – though Wood focuses on two young 19-year-olds in particular, Yolanda the “football girl” and Verla “the cabinet minister’s moll”. We get more into their heads. They are analytical about their situations and plan and act in ways to improve their situations. A cautious friendship develops between them. As well as being differentiated in this way from the rest of the group, they are also differentiated from each other by two facts: Yolanda wasn’t tricked like all the others into accepting the agreement that got them to this place, while Verla, who guiltily remembers “gratefully signing the fake legal papers”, believes that her “Andrew”, the cabinet-minister, still loves her. The other women are more problematic. We don’t get to know them well, but what we do see suggests that they have not cottoned on. They focus on finding ways to groom themselves, they reject Yolanda’s feral way of managing the situation, they fall on the fancy handbags at the end and willingly follow the new man who appears. They seem to have learnt little. But, perhaps that’s also the point. They have a right to be the young women they are. See, I’m talking myself into understanding this as I go …

And then there’s the men. They are scary, certainly, and brutal, particularly in the beginning:

So she didn’t see the man’s swift, balletic leap – impossibly pretty and light across the gravel – and a leather covered baton in his hand coming whack over the side of her jaw …

The man Boncer cast an aggrieved look at them, is if they were to blame for the stick in his hand …

But pretty soon we see that they, too, are, in a way, victims of the system. They’ve been fooled it seems into being there, on promises of bonuses, and are ultimately pathetic. I certainly don’t want to excuse them – they’ve made choices. However, as the supporting system seems to fail, they start to rely on the women’s ability to keep the show going. The women realise that these men don’t know what’s happening any more either. There’s an uneasy tension between captors and captives – and with that cracks start to show in the menace, albeit some menace remains.


The writing is good. There’s even humour, such as tempeh-loving, yoga-doing but clueless Teddy. The novel is structured by the seasons, starting in Summer, moving through Autumn and ending, appropriately, in Winter. The story is told third person, mostly focusing on Yolanda and Verla. They’re engaging, though they are also pretty slippery to fully grasp. There’s a distance that we never quite penetrate. We “see” Yolanda’s strength and Verla’s self-deception, but we don’t, I think, see “into” them.

Wood uses effective recurrent imagery or motifs, particularly smells, rabbits, horses and birds. The opening line is “So there were kookaburras here”, suggesting some sort of normality. In her interview with Annette Marfording long before this book was written, Wood discusses using kites and kite-flying to suggest “flight and escape”, and then she says “I realise I have a lot of birds”, which I assumed implies that they too suggest “flight and escape”. In The natural way of things, birds also suggest the related idea of “freedom”, but when hawks appear, we see another side, that of predator and prey. All relevant to the book.

Then there’s the irony in the title, “the natural way of things”, because there’s nothing “natural” about what the book describes. The title appears in the text once in a paragraph that occupies its own page. It’s powerful:

What would people in their old lives be saying about these girls? Would they be called missing? Would some documentary program on the ABC that nobody watched , or one of those thin newspapers nobody read, somehow connect the thread to make them a story? The Lost Girls they would be called. Would it be said, they ‘disappeared’, ‘were lost? Would it be said they were abandoned or taken, the way people said a girl was attacked, a woman was raped, this femaleness always at the centre, as if womanhood itself were the cause of all these things? As if the girls somehow, through the natural way of things, did it do themselves. They lured abduction and abandonment to themselves, they marshalled themselves into this prison where they had made their beds, and now, once more, were lying in them.

The “natural” way of things! Referring back to Ursula le Guin, I’d say that Wood has presented here a “persuasive alternative reality”. Indeed, it’s not far removed from Wood’s inspiration: the Hay Institution for Girls to which “problem” teenage girls were sent in the 1960s and 1970s, and treated with great cruelty. But, who or what is the enemy? Looking at Le Guin again, this would be “perilous social mores” (and those who uphold them) – the fact that the scapegoating of women is still “allowed” to happen. There’s (a little) more awareness now, but this behaviour is not stopping, not by a long shot. All of us, I’m sure, recognise the recent inspirations for Wood’s “girls”. Anna Krein’s Night games (my review) makes an interesting companion read.

So, where do we go from here? Dystopian novels don’t have to give answers, indeed they rarely do, they “simply” shine the light. The light Wood has shone is, though, a very complex one indeed. I think I’ll be reading this one again when my reading group does it in July.

Lisa (ANZLitLovers) has also read it and has posted her comments plus links to other reviews.

awwchallenge2016Charlotte Wood
The natural way of things
Crows Nest: Allen & Unwin, 2015
ISBN: 9781760111236

Monday musings on Australian literature: Spotlight on Charlotte Wood

Courtesy: Annette Marfording

Courtesy: Annette Marfording

This is the third in my occasional series of Spotlight posts inspired by Annette Marfording’s Celebrating Australian Writing: Conversations with Australian Authors. (See the end of this post for links to the first two.) Since Charlotte Wood won this year’s Stella Prize, the Christina Stead Prize for Fiction (NSW Premier’s Literary Awards), and has just been shortlisted for the Miles Franklin Literary Award for her latest novel The natural way of things, who better to choose for my third post.

Charlotte Wood is no stranger to awards. She has written five novels to date, and each of them has won or been shortlisted for awards, which is a pretty impressive achievement. She has also written a non-fiction work on food, Love and hunger, and edited an anthology, Brothers & sisters. Oh, and she has numerous essays, and newspaper and journal articles under her belt too. She is about to publish another book, The Writer’s Room, which will contain interviews with Australian writers selected from the digital magazine of the same name that she edited for three years.

And this makes a good place to segue to Annette Marfording’s interview with her, which took place back in 2010. Marfording’s first question was about awards. Wood indicated that she was “anti-awards” and that the book she thought was her best, The children (at that time she’d published three novels), had received the least notice in awards listings. She says:

I guess it’s easy when you’ve been shortlisted a couple of times to start dismissing it, but the whole prize culture is kind of damaging to literature, I think. It turns books into a horserace and it’s not good for writers and it’s not good for writing either.

This is not an uncommon view, and I do understand her point. The arts are not something that can be objectively measured like, say, a 50m freestyle swim or a high jump, but the money and recognition can, on the other hand, be very helpful to careers, particularly, I suspect, early ones. Wood admits that the money is useful, and can help writers keep writing.

Charlotte Wood (Courtesy: Wendy McDougall)

Charlotte Wood (Courtesy: Wendy McDougall)

Marfording then asks Wood about some of the ideas that recur in her novels – family, and abuse and violence. Regarding family, Wood says that it’s because “the intensity of human relationships plays out so well in families”. She doesn’t think that abuse and violence are strong themes – in those first three books – though agrees that there’s an abusive relationship in Pieces of a girl, and there is psychological warfare in her books. As she says “A story without any friction is not a story.” True!

Some questions naturally come up in most interviews with writers – recurrent themes being one. Another relates to the writing process, use of research, drawing from other people’s lives, and so on. Marfording asked Wood about these as well. Regarding her process, Wood said that “I start writing and see what happens”. She doesn’t plan, so sometimes the shape of the book comes quickly, other times not so. She doesn’t do a lot of research she says, but may check out the odd specific thing.

And then of course there’s that issue of writing from the perspective of other, such as a male point of view. Wood said that she used to worry about this, but her view is that, despite gender, we are not all that different in the way we think. So, she tries to avoid focusing on the physical issues – which are different – and keeps instead to the mental space.

They also discussed her writing, which is often described as “lyrical”. Wood says that with more experience she had become “sparer”, that at first she was “so lyrical that it kind of made you throw up”. Imagery, it seems, comes easily to her. In this she reminded me of Thea Astley who also found imagery easy and did put some readers off. She too became a little more spare in her later years, though perhaps not to the degree that Wood describes herself doing. Wood talks of actively focusing on character, plot and structure, and balancing that with her interest in language and lyricism.

Other topics discussed included the anthology, Brothers & sisters that she edited, and the place of short fiction in Australia. Re the latter, Wood said she felt things were improving, with new works by Cate Kennedy, Paddy O’Reilly, Robert Drewe, Tony Birch and Nam Le recently appearing. Wood says that:

a short story is perceived as a step to a novel, and there is nothing less true. I find them so hard to write that I hardly ever write them.

The interview concludes with some discussions about the “business end” of writing – publishing, editing and writing courses – topics which always interest me, even though I have no plans to write a novel, memoir or any other book!

A question they didn’t really cover, but which was asked by Booktopia in their Q&A with her in 2011, was which writers she admires. She tells them:

I admire any writer who has the courage to push through the barriers of ambition and vanity to get to the real thing – truth and beauty. Some of the best writers I know are struggling to get published, but they keep going because they are real artists. For the same reasons – truth and beauty – I respect and admire Alice Munro, Helen Garner, Anne Enright, Marilynne Robinson, Kim Scott, Richard Ford, Joan London, William Maxwell and Nina Bawden, among others.

What a lovely range of writers – they give a great sense of her writerly values don’t they?

Wood comes across as calm and level-headed – and I have heard other writers say that she’s generous in mentoring others. I have decided that my next book has to be The natural way of things.

Previous Spotlight posts:

Annette Marfording
Celebrating Australian Writing: Conversations with Australian Authors
Self published, 2015
ISBN: 9781329142473

Note: All profits from the sale go to the Indigenous Literacy Foundation. You can purchase the book from its distributor,


Stella Prize 2016 Winner Announced

WoodNaturalJust a short post for those of you who read my Stella Prize longlist and shortlist posts and haven’t heard the news – which would primarily be you readers from lands other than mine! The winner was not a surprise, as you may know if you read my response to BookerTalk’s question on my shortlist post. It’s Charlotte Wood’s The natural way of things.

Wood’s book has been garnering such positive reviews, I knew I should have read it before the announcement, but instead I read three others (Tegan Bennett Daylight’s Six bedrooms, Elizabeth Harrower’s A few days in the country and other stories, and Fiona Wright’s Small acts of disappearance.) I will definitely be reading Wood soon, since it is up for other awards this year too.

Charlotte Wood’s acceptance speech is available online at the Stella Prize site. Here are a couple of excerpts:

I know that the measure of a book’s quality, and the measure of one’s worth as an artist, can never be decided by awards. Nor can it be defined by sales, nor even the response of our beloved readers. If there is a measure – and I’m not sure there is – it can only be time.

Partly true. I discovered recently that Elizabeth Harrower missed out on the Miles Franklin Award for her wonderful The watch tower (my review) in 1966 to Peter Mathers’ pretty much forgotten Trap. (Of course, someone could revive it too as Text Publishing has Harrower’s books making me eat my words).  “Worth” though is not only about longevity. That’s one measure, sure. But relevance to the time in which the work is written and relevance to the readers of that time is, I’d argue, surely a “worthy” (ha!) measure of “worth” too. And that’s probably what awards in particular measure. Whether Wood stands the test of time, only time knows, but that she has captured something critical about our times can’t be denied if the universal acclaim this book is receiving is to be trusted. The judges certainly see it that way: they described the book as “‘a novel of – and for – our times” and “‘a riveting and necessary act of critique.”

Wood goes on in her speech to list some reasons to write, which are worth reading, but I’ll conclude with her argument about the importance of art:

Art is a candle flame in the darkness: it urges us to imagine and inhabit lives other than our own, to be more thoughtful, to feel more deeply, to challenge what we think we already know. Art declares that we contain multitudes, that more than one thing can be true at once. And it gives us a breathing space – a space in which we can listen more than talk, where we can attentively question our own beliefs, a place to find stillness in a chaotic world. I hope that my novel has provided some of those things: provocation, yes, but also beauty and stillness.

Now, I’m off to do some of my own form of stillness – yoga. Catch you all later …