The Weekend by Charlotte Wood
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.