The Weekend

Charlotte Wood

The Weekend
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The Weekend

Charlotte Wood

The brilliant new novel from Charlotte Wood, acclaimed author of The Natural Way of Things.


People went on about death bringing friends together, but it wasn’t true. The graveyard, the stony dirt - that’s what it was like now. They knew each other better than their own siblings, but Sylvie’s death had opened up strange caverns of distance between them.

Four older women with 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 that is nothing short of a masterpiece.

Review

Charlotte Wood is an accomplished Australian writer. She won the 2016 Stella Prize for her feminist dystopian novel The Natural Way of Things, which received many other awards as well.

The Weekend follows three women in their seventies: Jude, a retired restaurateur; Wendy, an academic and public intellectual, and Adele, an out-of-work actress. This is a slow-paced but dreamy beach novel, examining, closely, details of friendships. Wood skilfully weaves in each woman’s perspective, allowing focus on their anxieties of growing old, losing their sense of purpose, and questioning why they have remained friends over many decades when they irritate each other so much.

The Weekend is in many ways a different story to The Natural Way of Things, one without hot anger and sexual tensions. But is a book that simmers away, tensions waxing and waning as the friends spend the Christmas weekend together clearing out a beach house after their friend Sylvie dies. ‘Take anything you want’ is what Sylvie’s partner says, but clearing out the house becomes much more about connecting with each other than the material objects in the house. Long-held secrets create tension between the friends. Christmas looms but is almost uncelebrated.

Although the themes may be very different to her last book, Wood’s strength continues in her writing style – clear and visceral descriptions in punchy paragraphs. Jude, Wendy and Adele have their own clear voices and preoccupations: Wendy’s concern for her arthritic dog, a gift from Sylvie; Adele’s obsessions over how she presents herself and how she might find more acting work; and Jude’s stress over keeping everything organised – including her long-term affair with a married man. Wood has written a novel that beautifully realises the voices of older women in Australian literature.


Clare Millar works as a bookseller at Readings Hawthorn.

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