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.