If you have read (or watched) The Handmaid’s Tale or Alias Grace by Margaret Atwood and loved both, can I suggest a book I think you will like? It’s called The Natural Way of Things by Australian author Charlotte Wood and it very much fits into the same category.
I first read The Natural Way of Things very early on in its life (at manuscript stage) and it has since gone on to sell tens of thousands of copies (and counting) and win many literary prizes*. Having just finished watching Alias Grace on Netflix over the past week, it put this gem of a book back into my mind.
The Natural Way of Things has an intriguing premise—ten young women wake up after being kidnapped and drugged to find themselves imprisoned in a jail in the middle of nowhere. What is their crime and who has put them there? Soon you find out exactly what they have in common—each had a sex scandal with a powerful man made public—but does that make their imprisonment just? Each woman handles her incarceration in a different way as they are lorded over by two inept male jailers. When the food starts to run low, the tension rises.
I read The Natural Way of Things in one sitting. Upon finishing this novel my first thoughts were “Wow, what a read.” Closely followed by “What did I just read?”
What is the measure of a good book? Is it one with exquisite language that makes you feel a character’s pain, their hunger and their fear? Is it a story that describes the body and the environment in such a visceral way that at times your belly physically turns over in response to the words you just read. Is it one that makes you question the society we live in and your own part in it? Or a story that makes you enraged for what the characters have to endure, as well as, confusingly, angry at some of them for the choices they ultimately make? The Natural Way of Things is a novel that does all this and more.
The language is both beautiful and brutal. The images it conjured up in my mind as I read stay with me still. I reached the end of this book and turned the page, wanting to know more, wanting to know what came next. And since then I have thought about this book a lot and found myself pondering it on many different levels.
You can read this book on the surface, but it’s when you start delving deeper that the real magic happens. I wouldn’t say that it’s an easy read or the characters are particularly likeable, but it will make you think. It’s definitely a book that you want to get others to read so you can then launch into a furious debate.
My verdict: A must-read!
Have you read The Natural Way of Things?
*The Natural Way of Things was Winner Prime Minister’s Literary Awards – Fiction Category 2016 AU; Winner ABIA People’s Choice Awards – Literary Fiction Book of the Year 2016 AU; Winner The Stella Prize 2016 AU; Winner Indie Book Awards – Best Fiction 2016 AU; Winner Indie Book of the Year 2016 AU.