After a couple of false starts, I have truly emerged from my literary funk. The last two books I have read have been glorious and I have ploughed through them zealously in order to reap the harvest after a long and tedious drought. There is nothing more fulfilling that devouring the sweet and succulent dessert of a great tome. And I am a greedy eater.
From a plot perspective, The Natural Way of Things had remnants of Emma Donoghue’s The Room and a splash of John Fowles’ The Collector for good measure. At the core of these texts is the story of the trapped and powerless. The seized are all invariably women and they are imprisoned, for the most part, for and by the trappings of their femininity. But to simplify the novel in those terms alone would be a great injustice to this literary work. There is a far more compelling message to be absorbed within its pages.
The Natural Way of Things is an allegory on the subjugation of women: the double standards placed on women and their sexuality. The tale at a surface reading is creepy enough. A group of young women are kept against their will in the harsh and unforgiving outback. Peeling back even the slightest layer reveals a treatise on modern constructions of femininity and female sexuality. The trapped women are a symbol for the imprisonment of the gender through time and the historical stifling of women’s voices. Women are soiled by the deeds they commit in the pursuit of mediocre existence and survival.
This book is brutal. And compelling. I never felt very comfortable like a wicker chair long past its used by date. Indeed, at times it made me feel nauseous as it revealed its true self to me. But this text is important. It sits alongside the essays of Caitlin Moran, Naomi Wolf and Roxane Gay and the seminal works of of Anne Summers and Miriam Dixson in its importance to the evolution of modern feminism. As International Women’s Day approaches on 8 March, it is timely to reflect on the movement to suffrage in the not too distant past and the current and contemporary struggles of pay parity and more.