I put quite a lot of thought into what was to be the first book I read after finishing the BBC Top 100. I was torn between re-visiting one of my favourites from the list and indulging in some nostalgic escapism by in the form of Enid Blyton before deciding to try an Australian author I was yet to discover – and thus settled on Charlotte Wood’s The Natural Way of Things. Longlisted by the 2016 Stella Prize, and recommended by fellow book-blogger, Margot of Project Lectito, I thought it was a worthy way to begin my return to a normal reading life.
Right from the get-go, The Natural Way of Things grips its reader; we are introduced to two women who awaken from a drugged sleep to find themselves imprisoned with eight other girls in a broken-down property in the middle of nowhere. Their heads are shaved, they are forced to wear uniforms; they are chained together and forced to march; and under the unrelenting desert sun the women learn what connects them – each has been involved sexually with a powerful man. When supplies begin to dwindle the women soon realise that their jailers are also trapped, and if there is to be any rescue, the women will need to effect it for themselves.
Deeply unsettling, The Natural Way of Things is a dark read with a powerful ending that stays with its reader long after the final page is closed.