Review: The Natural Way of Things

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Two women awaken from a drugged sleep to find themselves imprisoned in an abandoned property in the middle of a desert in a story of two friends, sisterly love and courage – a gripping, starkly imaginative exploration of contemporary misogyny and corporate control, and of what it means to hunt and be hunted.

She hears her own thick voice deep inside her ears when she says, ‘I need to know where I am.’ The man stands there, tall and narrow, hand still on the doorknob, surprised. He says, almost in sympathy, ‘Oh, sweetie. You need to know what you are.’

Two women awaken from a drugged sleep to find themselves imprisoned in a broken-down property in the middle of a desert. Strangers to each other, they have no idea where they are or how they came to be there with eight other girls, forced to wear strange uniforms, their heads shaved, guarded by two inept yet vicious armed jailers and a ‘nurse’. The girls all have something in common, but what is it? What crime has brought them here from the city? Who is the mysterious security company responsible for this desolate place with its brutal rules, its total isolation from the contemporary world? Doing hard labour under a sweltering sun, the prisoners soon learn what links them: in each girl’s past is a sexual scandal with a powerful man. They pray for rescue – but when the food starts running out it becomes clear that the jailers have also become the jailed. The girls can only rescue themselves.

The Natural Way of Things is a gripping, starkly imaginative exploration of contemporary misogyny and corporate control, and of what it means to hunt and be hunted. Most of all, it is the story of two friends, their sisterly love and courage.

With extraordinary echoes of The Handmaid’s Tale and Lord of the Flies, The Natural Way of Things is a compulsively readable, scarifying and deeply moving contemporary novel. It confirms Charlotte Wood’s position as one of our most thoughtful, provocative and fearless truth-tellers, as she unflinchingly reveals us and our world to ourselves.


Phew. Let me collect my thoughts.

That was dark. Dark, surreal and incredibly well written. Charlotte Wood has written 5 books before, and her writing in The Natural Way of Things clearly shows experience. Throughout the book, there’s a constant motif of colour. It’s very subtle, sometimes with the colour itself, like the white grass, or sometimes with things that suggest colour, like describing something as “honey”. It’s incredibly effective in getting the scenes vivid, lifelike and eerily detailed. All throughout the book, you feel as if you’re right there, while the scenes are happening. The description is on another level, peoples! It’s bold and vibrant on every single one of those 320 pages.

This book is not afraid to go where it needs to go. There is rape. There is attempted rape. There is violence, and there are scenes that are simply disgusting, and extremely effective at making you recoil. Warning: DO NOT EAT FOOD WHILST READING CERTAIN PARTS.

Before I read the book, and had only read the blurb, I was scared that it was going to be really confusing. Not because of plot, but because the blurb had mentioned 10 people. Did this mean that there were going to be 10 characters, frequently alternated between? Please no. Spare me the horror.

Thank the Almighty Lords, Charlotte Wood is not a dimwit and has therefore thought of this already. Therefore, she’s done an incredibly clever thing and told the story from the perspective of only two characters, which stops us from getting confused within the points of views of the characters, without having to sacrifice any of her characters! Genius!

It’s amazing how such a simply idea can be completely transformed in the hands of a masterful author. 10 woman held prison by 2 jailers – pretty average right? This is where it takes a sharp turn and starts bringing in dark and scandalous pasts, evil men, sexism, rape, etc. Then, when the “jailers become the jailed” it starts getting extremely interesting. Under the vivid imagery and unbelievably detailed prose of Wood, it truly flourishes into something on another level. It’s so flawless, I’m running out of things to say because I have nothing to pick on. Read it. Now.

Thank you to Allen and Unwin for providing me with a copy in exchange for an honest review!

Rating: ★★★★★★★★★★ 10/10

The Natural Way of Things is out now. Buy at your local bookstore.

The Info:

  • Title: The Natural Way of Things
  • Author: Charlotte Wood
  • Paperback: 320 pages
  • Publisher: Allen and Unwin (October 1st, 2015)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN13: 9781760111236
  • URL: Goodreads, Allen and Unwin

3 thoughts on “Review: The Natural Way of Things

  1. I hadn’t heard of this. I’m not sure why. I agree, from your review, it sounds like it has similarities to themes of The Handmaids Tale – a favorite of mine. Thank you for the attention to it.


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