I plan to read this insightful, poignant and fiercely honest novel about female friendship and female ageing a second time, then seek out every other book its marvellous author has written.
I read Charlotte Wood's new novel, The Weekend, in one sitting. Here's my verdict: wow, wow, wow, wow, wow . . . This is Wood's greatest novel yet . . . A final sequence as powerful as anything in Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf? I had that strange feeling of realising my heart was beating too fast. Yet I hadn't left the couch in a few hours, except to make a cup of tea.
This richly textured novel is about so many things that it's hard to do justice to all of them. But there's something even deeper going on, something about existence itself. One of the underlying themes of this novel is the precarious nature of womanhood even in first-world societies: what seems to be social or financial or emotional security often turns out to be largely illusory. Wood's technique in this novel is masterly.
When Charlotte Wood finished writing her furious tour de force, The Natural Way of Things, she declared that for her sanity she would next write a lighter, funnier novel. And so she has - in a way. What could possibly be disturbing in a comedy about a group of ageing female friends? . . . The Weekend is Big Chill, with a dash of Big Little Lies and an echo of Atwood's The Robber Bride . . . Wood, a mere youngster in her 50s, researched the biology of old age during a fellowship at the University of Sydney and nimbly inhabits these bodies and minds. The Weekend is perhaps a more serious comedy than Wood originally intended because she can't help seeing vulnerability and injustice. Ageism is another face of sexism: older women are shut out of work, love and financial security; men are still dominant, and now young people are patronising . . . Wood has captured the zeitgeist again, with a mature ease that entertains even as it nudges our prejudices.
The Weekend is a character study and an interrogation of the heart. With poise and originality Charlotte Wood discloses the lives of three women who are surprised by age. This is a mightily accomplished work . . . Wood, in this engaging, stylish work, suggests that only by attending to the subtle ties involved in connection with others might there be an answer from the echoing void.
One of the best novels of the year . . . I couldn't remember the last time I had reviewed a book like it . . . as beautifully contained as a stage play . . . Wood is able to maintain focus on her characters, which she dissects with the precision of a vivisector . . . [they] are scrutinised here without sentimentality, though not without humour. Wood is both comic and incisive in exploring the power dynamics and gaslighting that can take place in relationships . . . Wood is a writer who is majestically in control, making it easy for a reader to surrender.
Wood once again uses layered, alternating voices, as she did to such powerful effect in The Natural Way of Things, to reveal the contrast between each woman's view of herself and the way she is seen by the others . . . The narrative has a taut, restless energy . . . Wood is not afraid of dealing with weighty material: death, grief, age, and the loss of control - or the mirage that we ever had any control - over our bodies and the way they are perceived . . . Wood has introduced us to three striving, difficult, vulnerable and engaging women, who are all very much alive.
The Natural Way of Things was a knife; The Weekend is a scalpel . . . a faultless cultural vivisection. Our epidemic of loneliness, growing class inequality, ever-present misogyny, male fragility, and the vicious rift of intergenerational animus . . . Wood's writing is at its incisively savage best. Our culture erases ageing women, relegates them to grandmotherly softness, or doddery cat-lady madness: biddies, busy-bodies and old bats. There is nothing lavender-scented about this caustic and humane novel.
Masterful . . . An illuminating novel of friendship, joy and hope, tempered by fear and sadness. Wood describes the ordinary with such clarity, it is at once both tender and devastating. Her skillful observations of the minutiae that make us human ultimately show us who we really are.
PRAISE FOR CHARLOTTE WOOD 'An unflinching eye and audacious imagination' Guardian 'Savage: think Atwood in the outback' Paula Hawkins, on The Natural Way of Things 'Wood's writing is direct and spare, yet capable of bursting with unexpected beauty' Economist 'An unforgettable reading experience' Liane Moriarty, on The Natural Way of Things 'Wood has the ability to evoke matters of life and death without straining for effect' Sydney Morning Herald 'Charlotte Wood's writing crackles with vivid precision' NPR 'A consummate observer of the human condition' Australian Book Review 'Vibrant, intelligent, utterly compelling work, achingly real and seductively woven' Adelaide Advertiser
The Weekend positively hums with life even as these three women are approaching the end of theirs. The book is exquisitely wrenching and poignant when dealing with female friendship and old age, yet it still manages to be funny and very real. I loved it.
Friendship, ambition, love, sexual politics and death: it's all here in one sharp, funny, heartbreaking and gorgeously-written package. I loved it.
Powerful, real and so urgent: The Weekend is an unforgettable study of friendship and loss. It's a delight to read such well-rounded older characters who are allowed to be angry, kind and purposeful, and still with human desires beyond not wanting to die. Brilliant: I loved it.
The Weekend is an unflinchingly observed celebration of the profundity and mundanity of friendship, treated with elegance, wit, and tenderness.
I found reading The Weekend both hypnotic and profoundly unsettling. The prose is sharply vivid and precise, the characters and location exceptionally real and I challenge anyone to write a better description of an elderly dog and its owner. Masterful.
A lovely, lively, intelligent, funny book... So good on ageing and on the fraught, warm friendships between women.
Fierce and unsparing, angry and tender. I loved this story of three women in their 70s and their complex, endlessly critical but unconditional friendship.
Who would have guessed that a chamber piece would feel like the most unreachable fantasy? Our current moment adds a alluring element to the latest from beloved Australian novelist Charlotte Wood, whose sixth novel, The Weekend, sees three friends in their seventies embark on a rich but difficult task: cleaning out their late friend Sylvie's house. Jude, Wendy, and Adele's dynamic, compressed by the dual crucibles of close quarters and grief, stretches and threatens to break as they uncover unknown things about each other. Wood's brand of social observation, honed in family drama Animal People and dystopian pre-#MeToo tale The Natural Way of Things, is in evidence here-spare and unrelenting. But it also allows us to acknowledge exactly why we tolerate such tensions: it means we are there with, and for, each other.
Rich with character and nuance, The Weekend reminds us all that life doesn't stop - whatever our age. A masterpiece of women's fiction like nothing I've ever read.
The Weekend captivated me from the excellent opening chapter... The three main characters - Jude, Adele and Wendy - are superbly drawn... Wood evocatively captures the pasts of these resilient women... The Weekend triumphantly brings to life the honest, inner lives of Jude, Adele and Wendy... This wise, funny novel will help you understand yourself - and it may scare the s*** out of anyone brave enough to confront the truths within its masterful pages.
A witty, poignant portrait of female friendship.
Capture summer (even if you can't leave your house) with a tender read dripping in easy nostalgia. In Charlotte Wood's quiet novel, three women in their 70's reunite for a weekend at the beach after the death of a friend.
Perfect poignant read... An insightful novel about accepting that we are all constantly changing.
Three 70-something women spend Christmas together and find new tensions in their long friendship. With the lightest of touches, this big-hearted, insightful read tackles friendship, ambition, ageing and death. A fantastic new writer (to me), and I'll now be reading her earlier novels.
Perfect for fans of Big Little Lies.
Wood finds a beautiful balance between her three women, swivelling between their perspectives on the present and their shared past. The gaps between how a character sees themselves and how their friends see them are astutely drawn, both painfully comic and frequently heartbreaking... Wood is to be praised for taking female friendship seriously and for being caustically honest - there's not a sentimental line in this beautifully insightful book.
'Compassionate, funny and chock-full of painfully acute observations of compromise, friendship ageing and marriage (in all its forms), The Weekend is one of those deceptively compact novels that continues to open doors in your mind long after the last page.
A glorious, forthright tale of female friendship... The temptation to reduce ageing to a condition experienced en masse rather than by individuals is a trap that snares only lesser writers. The better ones have avoided it - writers such as Nora Ephron and Penelope Lively, and, most recently, Elizabeth Strout. Joining their ranks is Australian Charlotte Wood, whose novel The Weekend conceives of old age as a state of mutiny rather than stasis, a period of constant striving against the world, but also against oneself... Masterful... What gives this novel its glorious, refreshing, forthright spine is that each of its protagonists is still adamantly (often disastrously) alive, and still less afraid of death than irrelevance. I read The Weekend during the week Dame Judi Dench, at 85, became the oldest person to appear on the cover of British Vogue, and soon afterwards a photo of 70-year-old Vera Wang wearing a sports bra went viral. There seemed to be a marvellous serendipity about all that which wasn't lost on me as I underlined these words: "Life - ideas, thinking, experience, was still there, to be mastered ... She had not finished her turn, would not sink down. She wanted more."
A darkly funny, truthful novel about three septuagenarians... There is endless pleasure to be found in the candour and compassion Wood brings to bear on femininity and female friendship.
[A] viscera, arresting portrayal of friendship and grief... Wood tackles age sharply and movingly, and makes you consider the darker aspects of your own friendships.
An authentic, sometimes funny, occasionally brutally well-observed study of female society and friendship . . . As with the novels of Elizabeth Strout or Anne Tyler, these are characters not written to please, but to feel true
Sharply observed and smartly paced... There's a steady crackle of irony from the gap between how the women judge each other and what they actually say... It might all seem a downward gear change from the violent feminist dystopia of Wood's previous novel, The Natural Way Of Things, but don't be fooled. This is a stealthier book: smuggled into its tender but clear-eyed portrait of long-term friendship is a troubling and comfortless picture of old age as a loss of dignity that hits the sexes unequally
Questions of love, ageing and ambition are examined through the prism of a long friendship in this intimate, unsentimental novel about three Aussie Boomers now in their 70s. Restaurateur Jude, Adele, a sometime star of the stage who's about to become homeless, and scatty Wendy, a feminist scholar trailed by a geriatric dog, have all gathered to clear out their late friend's beach house. Wine flows and irritations simmer as a secret waits to be unearthed
Mercilessly funny, cruel, empathetic, REAL dissection of three women in their 70s... can't stop reading
I'm not looking forward to much this locked-down summer but The Weekend is definitely an exception. The premise seems the perfect vehicle for Wood's unsparing observation, great gift for storytelling and total lack of sentimentality.
A rare pleasure... Warm and wise... This unsentimental gaze is typical of Wood's quietly radical tragicomedy. I was shocked by how unusual it felt to spend 275 pages exclusively in the company of older women... The Weekend is a shortish novel that slips down easily... With ostensibly light touch, Wood commands the long histories of these three very different women... A surefooted novel that packs 50 years into one weekend'
It's hard to imagine a more perfect study of female friendship than this unflinching look at the intricate mesh of fondnesses, micro-tensions and resentments that bind the women but may, eventually, tear them apart. Wood is unforgiving in her portrayal of the women yet they are so well drawn, so alive on the page, it is impossible not to feel a kinship and intimacy with each of them... The denouement is so magnificent, so heart-rending, that there is no doubt Wood is a writer of an exceptional calibre.Set in Australia over the course of a hot, long weekend, this is a great big gulp of a novel that cries out to be read in a single sitting.
An astute, tenderly funny novel about female friendship, ageing and loss.
As we get to know Jude, Wendy and Adele - and Sylvie, in absentia - we also get to know their younger, more vibrant selves, and we become familiar with the separate journeys that led them to this cluttered cottage every Christmas. Wood has several surprises up her sleeve; her characters have loved often, lived large and taken plenty of risks, which makes for quick, Liane Moriarty-esque reading. She also has an eye for the little moments that link us, sometimes past the point of reason, to people whose histories we share.
The book never seems static: it's fed instead by the three women's pasts and the way they work together like scissor blades, dangerous but mutually dependent... The Weekend is bracingly unsentimental about ageing and death... As a portrayal of ageing that's sympathetic but cynical, The Weekend brings to mind recent novels by Margaret Drabble or Elizabeth Strout.
The Weekend by Charlotte Wood is acerbic brilliance... It is so great I am struggling to find the words to do it justice... Wood is an agonisingly gifted writer, so great at capturing micro-emotions, the complexity of friendship, love, mother-child tension, all done with breezy readability. At time it's funny, thought-provoking, very moving. I care so much about the characters. I am now going to read all her other books!
What I found really radical about this book is that it shows the letdowns of old age [...] but they are almost secondary to the petty issues that we always think are the preserve of younger women. And it feels really radical because you do not read that about people in old age... Another thing I loved and really wanted to highlight about the book is that motherhood and children feature very much as a side order rather than the main... I really recommend it.
A moving study of age, friendships and all their complexities.
A candid portrayal of growing old with friends and coming to terms with our own mortality. Peppered with acute observations about human relationships and the consistent compromises required to maintain then, Wood has written a thought provoking page-turner shot through with wit and compassion.
A perfect, funny, insightful, novel about women, friendship, and ageing. I loved it.
Pitched somewhere between Margaret Atwood's The Robber Bride and TV's The Golden Girls, this bittersweet comedy about friendship and ageing is shadowed with mortality, but ripples with wit, insight and vitality.
It was refreshing to encounter a novel that so profoundly sympathises with women on the forbidding cusp of being classified as "elderly". Wood ably conveys that older women didn't used to be old, and that the experience of ageing is universally bewildering.
This big-hearted, insightful read tackles friendship, ambition, ageing and death, with the lightest of touches. A fantastic new writer (to me), and I'll now be reading her earlier novel.
Old female characters don't often get to occupy centre stage in modern fiction, but Australian author Charlotte Wood's three 70-something protagonists in The Weekend are exquisitely drawn. All sorts of emotions and humorous situations erupt when the trio (and a dog) reunite for a weekend in New South Wales to clear out the decaying beach house of their recently dead friend Sylvie. As well as being a shrewd dissection of grief, regret and the realities of bodily decay, The Weekend triumphantly brings to life the honest, inner lives of three interesting women.
Wood captures the push and pull of friendship with her intriguing, complex characters - and it's refreshing to see well-drawn older women take centre stage.
I was also engaged by The Weekend (Orion, £14.99) by Charlotte Wood . It was refreshing to encounter a novel that so profoundly sympathises with women on the forbidding cusp of being classifi ed as "elderly".