Posts Tagged ‘fiction’

Review: The Children by Charlotte Wood

17/04/2012

A month or so ago I finished the first book of three, which I have pledged to read and review as part of the Australian Women Writers Challenge 2012. It has taken me awhile to get around to the review part but the detail of The Children by Charlotte Wood is still lingering my mind, which might give you some indication to how powerful this story is.

Set in a rural NSW town, the story starts calm and quiet, essentially capturing the pace of this small town. Interestingly as the drama builds in this book, that calm element manages to underline the story, a tactic that I admired.

The Children is about a family who come together, physically, when Geoff, the father, falls off the roof of his house and ends up in the critical care unit with severe head injuries. Mandy, Stephen and Cathy, the children, come home to support their mother, Margaret. Mandy returns from her highly intense career as a foreign correspondent, which has led her to live in war torn countries and tragic situations – a career that has rattled her soul and has disconnected her from an ordinary life, including her relationship with her family and husband, Chris. Cathy, the most normal and sympathetic child I would say, in the sense that she does not have some twisted or disturbed view on life (except perhaps having to deal with siblings who are dramatic and removed from the family, or even themselves). The youngest, Stephen, who has detached himself from everyone, with little reason as far as we know, returns home after many years.

As the novel progresses, clues behind each individual’s past is unveiled and provides some insight into the dysfunctional characteristics (or perhaps, just ordinary) of the family. One thought that occurred to me while reading this was the family seemed so broken but yet I found myself relating to what a character was thinking or saying, and led me to think about whether ordinary actually exists. As details of the past weave into the present, I can actually feel the tension build with each turn of the page.

My initial reactions to this book was the great attention to detail – careful description of ordinary moments come alive, intense moods of the characters are felt in my own depths. This is a very stellar start to the Australian Women Writers Challenge. By all accounts and reviews I have read about Charlotte Wood she is an Australian author to watch and I can certainly see why. I look forward to reading (and re-reading) Wood’s work in the future.