Penguin Random House: 8/4/20
review copy; 272 pages
The Weekend by Charlotte Wood is a recommended character study of three longtime friends.
Jude, Wendy, and Adele have all been friends for many years. They are now in their seventies and are reuniting over the Christmas holiday in Bittoes, not far from Sydney, at their late friend Sylvie's beach house. They are there to clean the beach house out for Sylvie's partner before it is sold. The group is quite diverse. Jude is a once-famous restaurateur; Wendy is an acclaimed author and intellectual; and Adele is a renowned, but unemployed, actress. The four friends had a lifelong relationship, but with Sylvie gone, the dynamics of the group has changed. They know how each other will react, but can they remain close now.
Adding to the tension is Wendy's seventeen-year-old dog, Finn, who is
nearing the end of his life. Wendy had to bring him, but he is not
appreciated by Jude, who had exact plans for what would be accomplished
this weekend. Adele is just out for Adele and insists on doing what she
wants. Jude, who has been the mistress of a married man for years, wants
to get this weekend over with so she can meet Daniel. The weekend
culminates with the disclosure of a long held hurtful secret.
The women are certainly sharply observed and described, although they
are limited to almost stereotypes, with each woman fulfilling her
prescribed role as an aging woman. I didn't always find the narrative
humorous as much as tedious, with incredulity over their connection. The
main question they are all asking internally and I was certainly asking
aloud throughout the narrative was this: Why on earth are these women
still friends with each other? They may have all loved Sylvie (for
whatever reason, as it isn't clear why she would hold this diverse group
together) but there is very little love between them.
Currently living with an old dog nearing the end of his life (blind,
deaf, in diapers, and he scrabbles around) I understood Wendy trying to
give Finn the best end of his life time she could and I am sympathetic
to her character. Jude and Adele were a different story. I did
appreciated the commentary on aging and the exploration of what can be
viewed as success and failure when one looks back at their life, but I'm
not sure the emotional internal dialogue of each woman all the time was
necessary. At the end I simply wondered why Wendy didn't set boundaries
with the other two years before and, since I doubt they would have
worked, why not end the tenuous friendship. I would have cut and run
decades before this and certainly wouldn't be voluntarily spending a
weekend cleaning out a friend's home with such disagreeable people.
Disclosure: My review copy was courtesy of Penguin Random House.