The Natural Way of Things by Charlotte Wood

The Natural Way of Things by Charlotte Wood

The Natural Way of Things by Charlotte WoodThe Natural Way of Things by Charlotte Wood
Published by Europa on June 28th 2016
Source: Publisher
Pages: 208
Buy from IndieBound


At some point, before reading Charlotte Wood’s new novel, I’d heard it described as dystopian. It’s an understandable categorization; the book starts with eight women waking up on an abandoned sheep farm in the middle of the Australian desert, seemingly drugged. Chained together with their heads shaved, the women are guarded by two men and forced to work hard labor with little explanation or reason, other than the slogan: “Dignity and Respect in a Safe and Secure Environment.” Their new lives are characterized by fear and they are stripped of everything that once made them vibrant and unique.

But they start to realize what they have in common.

“…they are the minister’s-little-travel-tramp and that-Skype-slut and the yuck-ugly-dog from the cruise ship; they are pig-on-a-spit and big-red-box, moll-number-twelve and bogan-gold-digger-gangbang-slut. They are what happens when you don’t keep your fucking fat slag’s mouth shut.”

They were all involved in sexual scandals. They wore clothes thought to be revealing. They were sexually abused. They were publicly shamed.

The Natural Way of Things reads like a dark hallucination, particularly as the novel progresses and dynamics on the farm shift to raise new questions about who is in control and why. It’s haunting and infuriating, even empowering, with an ending that will have you desperate to talk…but it doesn’t feel dystopian. When the witness statement from the Stanford victim is released halfway through your read, it’s clear that every bit of the novel is possible. Then again, if a dystopia is a community or society that is undesirable or frightening, perhaps the term is not far off.


  • Great review, I think this is a book worth exploring, especially in a book club setting. Did you know this was based on actual events, look up Hay Institution for Girls for more information on what happened.

    • I did! I was pretty horrified when I finished and had to know where the concept came from. It let me to an interview where Charlotte Wood described that a bit. That kind of changes everything!

  • Oh wow, I had never read that witness statement before. Now I will have to go through the rest of my morning with pink eyes.
    And this book sounds terrifying, but so good.

  • Holy crap, I can’t even… what a tough novel. It sounds like it handled a dark topic incredibly well.

  • I can’t read this yet! Because I haven’t read this yet! It’s killing me!

  • Lisa Almeda Sumner

    This sounds like a challenging read. But one worth the challenge. Putting this title on my list (the eternal list)….

  • I’m sensing a little Handmaid’s Tale vibe?! I’m going to give it a shot when it comes out.

    • It’s much more violent, for sure, but I definitely caught an Atwood vibe. I’d love to hear what you think!

  • You had me at “dark hallucination.” I wish I’d written those words.

  • Oh gosh. I mean, this certainly sounds capital-I Important, but I’m not sure I’m up for it now. Do things turn out generally okay for everyone? In the end? Also are there, like, rape scenes?

    • The end is very ambiguous, so I don’t really know how to answer that. At least for some, yes. There are not rape scenes (the guards are rewarded in the end if they don’t – how crazy is that?), but there is the constant threat because the women don’t know that and man it is just stressful.

  • This looks horrifying, but also good? Haha I’ve got to keep an eye out for this one!

  • Wow. Leaving this one to other readers. Definitely NOT in my wheelhouse! Glad to read your review, however!

  • Heather

    I thought I was the only person in the world who didn’t think this felt dystopian! Just about every review I’ve read puts it in that genre, but I didn’t feel that at all. It didn’t read like the typical dystopian books I’ve read, but it all felt to real to be dystopian. I think I commented somewhere that I wouldn’t be surprised if there was a place like this already.

    I see in the one of the comments below that you thought the ending was a ambiguous. I agree, but I also thought that it was completely fitting, especially the part with the gift bags. It just shows how quickly we forget about the important headlines when it’s replaced by something else.

    • Oh, I LOVED the end. I hate when everything is wrapped up perfectly, so it was exactly the type of ending I was hoping for!

  • Dark, dark and dark and ambiguous endings? Sounds like something I’d love. Do you think this is the type of novel that requires the right timing to read it, or is it mostly bearable?

    • So, it’s definitely intense and kind of stressful, but I think it’s mostly bearable. It will make you a little ragey at the patriarchy.

  • Amanda

    Oh boy. This sounds powerful. and kind of terrifying. I will have to get it on hold for when I’m in the right mood.

  • Definitely sounds too creepy/scary for me. Thank you for your thoughts, however! :)

  • Yep, yep, yep. Picking this one up as soon as possible.

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  • This sounds so creepy! I’m not sure I can handle it.

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