Book 1: The Natural Way of Things by Charlotte Wood

We’re off to a great start.

This is a fierce, angry novel that takes some heavy contemporary issues – misogyny and slut-shaming chief among them – and bakes them into a brutal dystopian fable.

The premise: ten young women who’ve all been caught up in some kind of sex scandal wake up in a makeshift outback prison, forced to do hard labour for their “sins”.

It’s a little Margaret Atwood and a little Cormac McCarthy but it’s also strangely reminiscent of that deeply discomfiting Australian film Wake in Fright. That’s a very male film and this is a very female book but both use the Australian wasteland to chilling allegorical and psychological effect.

Inspired by real-life events like NRL gang rapes and the Diane Brimble case, this is a feminist book with a message; but it’s all the more powerful because it’s never preachy. It’s fuelled by righteous rage but it’s not a lecture.

It’s relentlessly grim but Wood’s crisp and elegant writing make it an effortless read.

I’ll be stunned if it doesn’t start collecting some awards in the coming months.

Next: a post-apocalypse with a citrus twist.

Author: adamgartrell

Political journalist drowning in books

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