The Weekend by Charlotte Wood
It’s Christmas time and three seventy something female friends have come together to clean out a beach house. The house was owned by their fourth friend, Sylvie, who has recently died. There is a lot of work to do, so the surviving friends get started cleaning cupboards while trying to fill the gaps left by their just-departed friend.
The Golden Girls it ain’t.
The Weekend is the latest book from the “it girl” of Australia contemporary fiction, Charlotte Wood. Her last novel The Natural Way of Things won the 2016 Stella Prize, Prime Minister’s Literary Award, Indie Book of the Year and was shortlisted for the Miles Franklin award. If Readhead was giving out awards, it would have got ours too (no doubt straight to the pool room). I absolutely loved it, but it was always going to be a tough act to follow.
There are a lot of themes on display in The Weekend, but the most profound one is ageing. The three main characters are all struggling with the physical, emotional and even financial realities of getting older but just can’t seem to admit it to each other.
At first, I found it hard to empathise with these humorless women, let alone sympathise for them. In fact, I didn’t warm to them at all. It occurred to me more than a few times that Sylvie was lucky to have left the building. I’d like to think that my friends and I at the same point in life would laugh or cry about our individual frailties, but maybe that’s the reality at the pointier end of the ageing stick where things get real and protecting your dignity is the only thing that matters.
The Weekend wasn’t my most enjoyable read of 2019 but it was still worth it. It made me stop and think about the fears and pressures, particularly those experienced by women, as they get older and the need for friendships and support. After all, we can’t all share an apartment with Betty White.
I’d suggest it as a good choice for book club or gift for thoughtful holiday readers.
And that’s my 2 cents worth.