Updated: Dec 21, 2019
This really can't wait for Christmas: I'm buying 'The Weekend' for the weekend ... As an admirer of Charlotte Wood's prose and writerly wisdom, and with the additional impetus of being a 'mature' woman myself, this was always going to be a novel on my Aussie Author Advent list. I recently listened to Charlotte Wood being interviewed on the First Time Podcast (in fact that's where I got the whole idea for trying to do my little bit to promote Australian literature and authors) and I was immediately hooked by the premise.
This is how it is explained on Charlotte Wood's website:
'Four older women have a lifelong friendship of the best kind: loving, practical, frank and steadfast. But when Sylvie dies, the ground shifts dangerously for the remaining three. Can they survive together without her?
They are Jude, a once-famous restaurateur, Wendy, an acclaimed public intellectual, and Adele, a renowned actress now mostly out of work. Struggling to recall exactly why they've remained close all these years, the grieving women gather for Christmas at Sylvie's old beach house - not for festivities, but to clean the place out before it is sold.
Without Sylvie to maintain the group's delicate equilibrium, frustrations build and painful memories press in. Fraying tempers, an elderly dog, unwelcome guests and too much wine collide in a storm that brings long-buried hurts to the surface - and threatens to sweep away their friendship for good.
The Weekend explores growing old and growing up, and what happens when we're forced to uncover the lies we tell ourselves. Sharply observed and excruciatingly funny, this is a jewel of a book: a celebration of tenderness and friendship..
I can relate. In fact I suspect there are many women who can identify with the notion of belonging to a similar close knit group of longterm friends and all the tensions and strings attached. As much as it is the last thing I would wish on any group of friends, I cannot help but wonder how the dynamics might change when one of the threads is removed. Does the whole friendship unravel, or does the group refashion itself into a different form?
I have a small gaggle of girlfriends from school who I still (erratically) keep in touch with (especially now we live on opposite sides of the world), but, nevertheless, there is a special bond which exists between us, even though we are very different personalities, probably mores now we are that much older. I've never really considered the sort of relationships and dynamics which might reveal unspoken truths about our friendships and bonds. I can imagine, and I'm anticipating in this novel, that I'll discover some parallels. Perhaps it is growing older, but as well as experiencing a pang of nostalgia for my youth, I'm increasingly interested in how friendships change over time, especially under duress, and I find myself suddenly impatient to read Charlotte Wood's portrays of this particular friendship group.
Here are some more reviews to whet your appetite:
'Wood’s technique in this novel is masterly. There’s the minutely detailed observation, the delicate shifts in point of view, the variation of style to suit different scenes and moods, and the expert management of escalating drama and tension ... Wood faces down the depressing and frightening things about old age and hints at things that might be used to soften them. Or even, if you’re lucky, to transcend them.'
- Kerryn Goldsworthy, The Sydney Morning Herald / The Age
'Her central preoccupation are the questions: What have I lived for? What have I done with my one precious life? The unvarnished truth is that small acts of kindness defeat even core selfishness. For Jude, Wendy and Adele, the weekend is a sifting through what is important and what is not. Wood, in this engaging, stylish work, suggests that only by attending to the subtle ties involved in connection with others might there be an answer from the echoing void.'
- Helen Elliott, The Monthly Helen Elliott, The Monthly
'Charlotte Wood’s new novel, The Weekend, is her best work yet. It is also one of the best novels of the year ... The Weekend delivers when it comes to characterisation, big themes and wit, but it also delivers on plot. Each character labours towards an epiphany in a stylised White-esque fashion, and there is an ending that is satisfyingly unexpected. Wood is a writer who is majestically in control, making it easy for a reader to surrender.'
- Maria Takolander, The Sunday Paper Maria Takolander, The Saturday Paper
Author bio from Allen and Unwin website: https://www.allenandunwin.com/browse/books/fiction/The-Weekend-Charlotte-Wood-9781760292010
'Charlotte Wood has been described as 'one of our most original and provocative writers'. She is the author of six novels and two books of non-fiction. Her bestselling novel, The Natural Way of Things, won the 2016 Stella Prize, the Indie Book of the Year and Indie Book Award for Fiction, was joint winner of the Prime Minister's Literary Award for Fiction, and was published throughout Europe, the United Kingdom and North America. She has been twice shortlisted for the Miles Franklin Literary Award, as well as many others for this and previous works. Her non-fiction books include The Writer's Room, a collection of interviews with authors about the creative process, and Love & Hunger, a book about cooking. She lives in Sydney with her husband.'