I would not go as far as to say that Charlotte Wood is a bad writer, on the contrary. Her descriptions of the hardships her main characters have to undergo are beautifully written, harsh and poetic at the same time, the structure of her novel is clever and strengthens the story. I do not have a clue however what Wood is trying to convey to me with this story about a group of women held captive against their will somewhere in the Australian outback.
Some twenty young women are held captive, a dangerous electrical fence makes their escape impossible. The guards are unnecessarily cruel, their labour strenuous and the food is lacking in quality and quantity. They have ended up in hell. Why they have ended up there is never revealed, we just have to guess at it. Something to do with them being sexually active and not willing to accept minor details as date rape. It appears they are all being punished for embracing their womanhood,
During their months of captivity they all fall back into behaviour which fits them personally. Three of them spend entire days removing unwanted hair growth, one searches for this one poisonous mushroom and yet another hunts for rabbits to eat. The Natural Way of Things goes with the cliché of any story in which a group of people ends up somewhere and has to fend for themselves.
What preoccupies me is why the women were taken in the first place. Could it be that the group who only wants to return to civilization is used to set off the smaller group that tries to escape in whatever way possible: by committing suicide or by choosing to live close to nature even when freedom appears to be near. Living a live that does not include nice clothes, make-up, hair or sexuality. It appears Wood considers them superior and this gives me the creeps.
I just cannot fathom what she is trying to tell: women are not supposed to be sexual creatures? We should choose lives far away from culture and civilization with all its traps? We grow to be superior by overcoming the odds? I do not know, in whatever case the measure is too bizarre to be credible. And as a result I find The Natural Way of Things just not credible.