‘Three women in their 70s – bruised by life, discarded by society, bursting with anger – reunite for one last, life changing weekend’
– The Weekend
[ Book Description ]
Sylvie, Jude, Wendy and Adele have a lifelong friendship of the best kind: loving, practical, frank and steadfast. But when Sylvie dies, the ground shifts dangerously for the remaining three.
These women couldn’t be more different: Jude, a once-famous restaurateur with a spotless life and a long-standing affair with a married man; Wendy, an acclaimed feminist intellectual; Adele, a former star of the stage, now practically homeless.
Struggling to recall exactly why they’ve remained close all these years, the grieving women gather for one last weekend at Sylvie’s old beach house – not for a celebration of her life, but to clean the place out before it is sold.
But fraying tempers, an elderly dog, unwelcome guests and too much wine collide in a storm that brings long-buried hurts to the surface – a storm that will either remind them of the bond they share, or sweep away their friendship for good.
[ My Review ]
The Weekend by Charlotte Wood will be published with Weidenfeld & Nicolson on June 25th. Described as ‘literary fiction at its best; bold and ambitious, with characters you will not want to forget’, The Weekend is an award winning novel, recently picking up Literary Fiction Book of the Year at the Australian Book Industry Awards. It has also been nominated for The Stella Prize 2020 and the Miles Franklin Literary Award 2020.
The Weekend is very much a story of friendship and how these friendships can evolve as we move into our older years. Charlotte Wood was inspired to write this book as she wished to highlight how getting older does not mean stagnation and that aging should be given more credence.
“I wrote this book because I think our culture seems to have decided that after a certain age complex change is no longer open to us, and that in place of change there can only be stasis, or degradation. But I believe we’re constantly changing in all kinds of ways, right up until the last moments of our lives. And this novel is staking a claim for the courage to allow this deep and continuous change to go on, to push back against society’s insistence that this possibility vanishes as we age.”
– Charlotte Wood
The Weekend takes the reader on a tender, meandering journey into the lives of three women, Jude, Adele and Wendy, now all in their 70s. They have lost their friend Slyvie, leaving the friends quite rudderless, directionless. They arrange to meet up in Sylvie’s house to clean it out over the Christmas period but none are really prepared for the emotional path they were about to embark on.
What was four is now three and Sylvie’s presence is greatly missed. Each of the three women had their own personal connection to Sylvie and as they go through her things, memories surface and emotions run high. At first glance it would appear that these three women have very little in common and that Sylvie was the glue holding the friendship together. Without Sylvie, nerves are heightened, comments barbed with impatience and criticism rife.
Jude, a restaurateur is prickly, on edge, a person always assuming the position of the one in control, in charge. The portrayal of Jude is just beautiful as she explores her own feelings about getting old and the impact it has had on her life, her body, her whole being. Control is important to Jude but she is losing her sense of who she is and is grappling to come to terms with these changes.
Adele is a struggling actress passed her prime. Adele is in serious financial difficulty and is in complete denial about her age and the roles that could still be out there for her. Adele looks after herself, but old age is coming whether she likes it or not and Adele is determined to show the world that she is not done with it yet. But underneath the facade, Adele is frightened with the direction her life has taken and what future now awaits her.
Wendy is a feminist, an academic with successful publications under her belt, but life has not always been kind to Wendy. Her relationship with her, now adult, children is fraught and Wendy just feels old and tired. She arrives to Sylvie’s house with her slobbering and clearly unwell dog, Finn, who is literally on his last legs, but Wendy is just not ready to let him go. Finn is the fourth character in this tale, as we slowly watch his decline and his step closer to his own demise.
Finn’s presence is not welcomed by Jude. She has no affection for him, no tolerance for his smells, his obvious illness and, in her mind, the unhygienic aura from his very being. I translated Jude’s strong reaction to Finn as raw fear. Jude is afraid of death, of getting old and Finn’s decline highlights to her the undignified loss of control that can accompany death as the body gets older. Finn is very much a symbol throughout this story, a very poignant reminder that every pumping heart eventually slows down…..
Charlotte Wood has written a very emotive story. These three strong women are not ready to stop living. They have opinions, emotions, intelligence and hope. They want to live. They want to be recognised as people with purpose, people who still have so much to offer society.
‘The thing that hurt, she realised on waking, was that she’d not yet reached the place she had always felt was there waiting for her., if she could only work hard enough… People like Wendy had had their turn; that’s what she was supposed to accept now. It was time for her to go away, to step back… Yes. Life – ideas, thinking, experience – was still there, to be mastered, expressed, in a way that only she could do it. She had not finished her turn, would not sink down. She wanted more.’
The Weekend is a very insightful and powerful tale. Jude, Adele and Wendy are three strong and engaging women who are not yet ready to stop discovering, exploring life and all it has to offer. This time together in Sylvie’s house causes friction and unease. Over the years theirs was an unconditional friendship, rooted in years of history but now their past begins to catch up with them unraveling the threads of their relationship, picking at sores long since buried.
Filled with acerbic and, at times, scathing dialogue but also with sentimental and nostalgic moments, The Weekend is an extremely thought-provoking read. Female friendship is recognised as a very special and complex relationship. Charlotte Wood puts this friendship under the microscope and in doing so creates a captivating and very gentle exploration of the intimacy and the understanding, the solidarity and the love of this powerful and extraordinary relationship.
“At its heart THE WEEKEND is a celebration of friendship, and a celebration of change – even within those friendships, which we tend to think have been cemented into shape by time. It’s about the rewards available to us if we’re brave enough to allow that cement to crack open, to let these essential renewals take place.”
– Charlotte Wood
[ Bio ]
Charlotte Wood is a fierce and fearless voice in contemporary literature with a strong feminist angle: hugely readable but also razor-sharp and uncompromising. Her previous novel, THE NATURAL WAY OF THINGS, won the 2016 Stella Prize, the 2016 Indie Book of the Year and Novel of the Year, and was joint winner of the Prime Minister’s Literary Award for Fiction.
In 2016 Charlotte was named the Charles Perkins Centre’s inaugural Writer in Residence at the University of Sydney, a radical initiative bringing science and art together in a world-class research facility: that experience inspired and informed the writing of THE WEEKEND.
In 2019 she was made a Member of the Order of Australia (AM) for ‘significant services to literature’.
Website – https://www.charlottewood.com.au/