Book review: The Other Side of the World

Book review: The Other Side of the World

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This second, Stella Prize shortlisted novel from Stephanie Bishop has been described by some as ‘domestic fiction’. For me, the term domestic subjugates this beautifully articulate book to the often dismissed realm of women’s fiction.
This is a family drama written in prose reminiscent of Virginia Woolf. It follows the marriage of Charlotte and Henry after the birth of their first child, and maps that difficult, lonely struggle of a young mother caring for young children. The pair move to Australia in hope that the weather will ‘cure’ Charlotte of her sickly state, but instead she suffers from a bone-aching longing for home. What is home? Is it something we carry around within ourselves? Or a place?
This is a book I will carry around with me as it echoes in the dark chambers of my person. Beyond this I’m left surprised that there are so few books mapping this territory, territory that so many know intimately, but only now are we beginning to charter.

Here is Bishop with a brilliant insight – only one of many illuminating moments – on growth:

“How strange it is to see, every day, the stark evidence of a person’s disappearance, quite indistinguishable from a person’s becoming. Those early versions of ourselves, she thinks, that vanish over an ordinary course of days.”

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Book review: Natural Way of Things

Book review: Natural Way of Things

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Verla and Yolanda wake up to find themselves drugged and abducted in a remote part of Australia. Whatever this place is, they have had no choice in coming here. Like a prison sentence, except they have committed no crime, and there was no jury. They are paying the price for their involvement in sex crimes and misdemeanors – victim, or no.

This difficult though well-written book reminded me of a female version of Lord of the Flies. Away from the social mores and structures of everyday Australian society, these women are debased and de-identified. From this base, almost animal, level they rebuild themselves, taking their cues from the harsh land they wander.

Wood uses this allegorical tale to explore notions of contemporary misogyny, and in doing so provokes thought, disgust, anger and recognition that there is truth in this distopian tale. While brilliant, this book rubbed my fur the wrong way. A difficult but important read which will provoke much thought and discussion at this month’s book club.