Lately, I’ve been wondering what happened to the word chauvinism. You don’t hear it so much anymore. It’s not like the act of being chauvinistic has disappeared, instead we seem more confident in calling it out for what it is – misogyny. The less offensive act of being chauvinist (believing women are unequal to men) and misogynistic behaviours (indicating a hatred or distrust of women) now seemed aligned.
I’m not an etymologist, but this linguistic smudging out the grey areas of sexism indicates to me an increasing confidence in women, and many men, to name certain behaviours for what they really are. And to make visible some behaviours which for a long time have been invisible and tolerated.
The Natural Way of Things is unlike any other book I’ve read. Its author Charlotte Wood has taken the concept of misogyny and has constructed a literal monument out of it. She has breathed life into it and given it a beating heart and working lungs. On every page of this book it speaks loudly and shockingly and stops you dead.
In an interview, with the Sydney Morning Herald Charlotte Wood said:
A couple of men who have read it wanted to know where it came from and I said, ‘I think it just came from 50 years of being a woman’. As a woman in our culture – and we’re in the luckiest culture to be a woman in – I spend a lot of time closing my ears and eyes to stuff. In a day you come across 10 or 20 messages from everywhere saying what’s wrong with you because you’re a woman – your body’s not right, you’re not good enough to do a job, every bit of advertising and TV culture.
I don’t want to outline the premise of the book, although plenty of other reviews have, because the opening of this book, and how it leads you unevenly to the crux of the novel, is one of the best I’ve read. But I can say this: no matter how you think 2016 is going to pan out for you, it has to include The Natural Way of Things. This book is brilliant- it’s gripping and enervating and visceral. Its imagery, its allegory and its plot will stay with you for weeks.
It has already collected the Australian Indie Book Award for 2106, and has been shortlisted for a number of others. My prediction is that it will collect the gong for the 2016 Stella Prize when the winner is announced next week.
The Natural Way of Things will be published in the UK and North America in June and July this year. My pan-translantic friends, how lucky you are to still have this book awaiting you; pencil it into your summer reading list forthwith! Fellow Aussies, there is a copy with your name on it sitting in your local bookshop. This novel is likely to be 2016’s literary high-water mark for me. You should also make it yours.