'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.' (Publication summary)
Planned as a micro-budget feature film adaptation, the film is the work of independent producers Katia Nizic and Emma Dockery.
Unit Suitable For
AC: Senior Secondary Literature (Unit 4)
dystopia, feminism, gender, gender roles and stereotypes, human rights, misogyny, nature, patriarchy, power and authority, social control, stereotypes, Sustainability, the environment
Critical and creative thinking, Ethical understanding, Literacy, Personal and social
'In her novel The Natural Way of Things (2016), Charlotte Wood investigates how taxidermic tactics participate in creating contemporary Australian gender relations. She documents how women who resist patriarchal ordering are assigned the status of taxidermic animal-objects as they are composed as sluts. Rather than simply critiquing the objectification of women or seeking to restore women marked as deviant to human status, Wood utilizes the position of the animal-object to challenge patriarchal constructions of the human and to illuminate the insights that become available from positions other than the human, signaling possibilities for feminist taxidermic practice.' (Publication abstract)
'In 2019, every incoming student and staff member at the University of Canberra will be given a copy of Charlotte Wood's dystopian thriller The Natural Way of Things, as "required reading".'
'Kangaroos are the most visible of Australia’s unique animals, but despite their charm and national icon status, Australian writers perpetually kill them off.' (Introduction)
'Opening Charlotte Wood's fifth novel, The Natural Way of Things, is like waking up in hell. Ten women have been drugged, kidnapped, hauled out to the middle of nowhere, and imprisoned in a former sheep station with three hired keepers. Almost immediately the women recognize each other from news coverage and piece together the sole link between them: that each has been involved in some kind of sex scandal, and now each has been carefully "disappeared," although the details of the operation—how it was coordinated and funded, why they were selected, and who planned the whole [End Page 318] thing—remain mysterious. Two-thirds of the way through the novel, there is a very short segment in which someone wonders what people would make of their absence: "Would it be said, they 'disappeared,' 'were lost'? Would it be said they were abandoned or taken, the way people said a girl was attacked, a woman was raped, this femaleness always at the center, as if womanhood itself were the cause of these things?" (133). But those questions quickly fade again into the background, and it begins to look like this novel is not exactly a feminist cautionary fable along the lines of The Handmaid's Tale. We never learn anything about the politics or motives of the cabal that so efficiently engineers this mass kidnapping. Certainly there is a running critique of routine Australian sexism; Wood is particularly keen to show us how sexist attitudes have been assimilated by the ten victims, to varying degrees. But the focus of the novel is less political than primordial. This is a kind of prison experiment, the jailers trapped inside with the prisoners, and everyone driven or reduced to something less than fully human. Or perhaps we were never as human as we thought?' (Introduction)