The Natural Way of Things by Charlotte Wood

Charlotte Wood has done it again. No-one does grit quite like this woman and her new book is a corker….but it is not for the faint of heart so consider yourself warned.

Ever heard of dystopian fiction? Embarrassingly, I hadn’t. It means writing about an utterly horrible or degraded society that is generally headed to an irreversible oblivion, or dystopia. So welcome to The Natural Way of Things and what can only be described as a tale about hell on earth.

But not hell for everyone. Just a chosen few.

Verla and Yolanda wake up to find themselves drugged, disoriented, dressed all in white and locked up. They assume in their comatose state they have been hospitalised. When it dawns on them they have in fact been imprisoned along with eight other girls and are trapped in a remote, derelict property, surrounded by electric fences, watched over by two vile misogynist guards, they quickly understand they are in a living nightmare.

They are stripped of everything, tied together, abused, beaten with sticks and pushed to do hard labour under the sweltering sun. They are forced to drink blackened water and eat slops from bowls that are never washed. Every piece of dignity to taken from them and no-one can hear their screams.

Slowly, the women begin to recognise each other. They all have something in common. Each of them has been publicly humiliated by a sex scandal with a powerful man. And now for their sins, they have have been hunted, caught and trapped.

Who by however is never clear but over the months, being rescued becomes a dim hope to them all. Their food starts to run out, their guards turn meaner and more crazed and they are forced to fight and connive to stay alive.

This book will get under your skin, but that is the skill of Charlotte Wood – all of her books have gotten to me. Profoundly so. The Submerged Cathedral was the first one I read of hers way back in 2004 and my heart still misses a beat when I think about it 11 years on.

You will be shaken and stirred but isn’t that the great thing about great books? They make you f.e.e.l ! And this book offers up feelings in spades. So please get a copy. It’s no joyride, but it is absolutely worth it.

But that is just my 2 cents worth.