The Weekend by Charlotte Wood – a review

The Weekend, the sixth novel by acclaimed author Charlotte Wood, enchanted me. Perceptive, gut-wrenchingly sad and superbly written, this book also includes enough  humour to lighten the story.

The Weekend coverIt’s about love of different types, the kind of friendship that can wax and wane over many decades and still survive, death and decay, and the memories and fears, hopes and dreams of old women. 

Three friends in their seventies converge on a beach house near Sydney during the weekend that includes Christmas. They have agreed to sort out the household accumulation of years to make the house ready for sale for an acquaintance, Gail, who now lives overseas. She and the former owner of the house, Sylvie, were lovers before Sylvie’s death eleven months previously.

The house holds rich memories for the three friends. Their dear friend Sylvie played hostess to them there during summer breaks for many years. Jude, a former restaurant owner arrives first.  Adele, an-out-of-work but still hopeful actress and Wendy, an academic and public figure come later and set about the tasks allotted to them by Adele. 

Wendy’s decrepit old dog accompanies her. Blind, deaf and cognitively challenged, he spend the days staring into space, turning in circles and bringing the ire of Adele and Jude upon himself.

Some of the things I loved about The Weekend

  • This is a character-driven novel in which the plot seems to take second place to the characters. But of course it’s what happens to the women and the way they think and act that creates a rich and satisfying story.
  • The portrait the author draws of  beautiful, strong yet vulnerable women who have shared a long history which may not continue without Sylvie. I loved these women while at the same time they sometimes exasperated me. They felt like friends.
  •  Charlotte Wood creates surprises, even shocks, to form a fascinating story with unexpected twists and turns.
  • The way in which the author foretells events so that a second reading reveals the careful structure of the novel.
  • Amazing language throughout, together with attention to the minutest details. Even the mundane task of making a grocery list, in Charlotte Wood’s prose, develops into a delicious piece of writing.
  • The setting. A derelict house rises high above the road, without a view of the ocean but within hearing distance of the waves. The palpable heat in the house which distresses the women, and Finn. I felt as if I’d been to that beach, swum in that water, walked in that park.The Weekend Author, Charlotte WoodAuthor Charlotte Wood

I have enjoyed and admired Charlotte Wood’s  writing since I read her second novel, The Submerged Cathedral, published in 2004 and I think The Weekend is her best book. As a downsizer, I have let go many of my books. But The Weekend is a keeper.

Highly recommended.

Australian Women Writers Challenge

This review is part of my commitment to the Australian Women Writers Challenge 2019.

Australian Women Writers Challenge 2019 Badge

If you enjoyed this review, you might also like my reviews of the novels below. You can read more by clicking on the title.

Too Much Lip, by Melissa Lucashenko

Dustfall by Michelle Johnston

Invented Lives, by Andrea Goldsmith

 

2 thoughts on “The Weekend by Charlotte Wood – a review

  1. Hi Maureen,

    I also loved this book, reading it in one big binge.

    I’d be interested in your perspective on the portrayal of the friendships between these women in their 70’s. Did you feel it was realistic? Are old, dear friends like that to each other? I suppose the women were grieving so that certainly affects behaviour. Would love to hear what you think.

    • Hi, Fiona. The Weekend as you probably guessed, will go down as one of my favourite books for a long time.

      Thanks for your fascinating question. I hadn’t given it any thought before. Now I think about it, the friendship between the three women (and Silvie) seems very odd. I guess most long-lasting or deep friendships, and especially between groups of friends, are complex and sometimes difficult, as well as rewarding. That’s my experience and academic knowledge of all relationships, from families of origin, marriages, families of procreation, workgroups.

      While I was reading the Weekend, I didn’t think about whether or not such friendships could exist, or whether this one was realistic. I suppose that means that it rang true for me, although I did wonder a couple of times why they stayed together, given how fraught it all was, and the toxic secrets they carried.

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