The Weekend by Australian author Charlotte Wood is the story of three friends who are in danger of losing their connection after the death of another friend, Sylvie.
Jude, Wendy and Adele have always met at Sylvie’s beach holiday house near Sydney to spend Christmas together, but this year they are arriving the weekend before Christmas to clear out the house as it is to be sold.
Without Sylvie to balance out their differences, the three women’s personalities and behaviour has become more irritating and hurtful to each other than ever before.
The women’s personalities are very different. Jude is bossy and judgemental, capable and confident. She has been the mistress of a powerful married man for over forty years. As he always spends Christmas with his wife and family, Jude stays with her friends for Christmas. Wendy and Adele both hope that Jude will make her pavlova for Christmas this year, but Jude believes that this last visit is work. Withholding the pavlova is a form of control for Jude.
Wendy is a successful author, an intellectual who continues to put her career before her family and her children now see her as a burden. Wendy’s elderly dog Finn is blind, confused and in pain but Wendy refuses to see that the kindest thing would be to have him put down. The very presence of Wendy’s smelly, incontinent dog infuriates Jude. Wendy’s inability to let Finn go is because Sylvie gave Finn to Wendy as a puppy.
Adele is a taker, a has-been actress who has been out of work for some time. Her most recent love affair has just finished, leaving her homeless. Adele prides herself on her looks and her fitness, and makes a point of using the steep stairs up and down the cliff to the beach house while Jude and Wendy accept the necessity of the inclinator. Although Adele is deluded about her value to others, she is also the best-equipped of her friends to survive whatever life throws at her.
Ageing is hard. My father always said that it beats the alternative, but there comes a time when it probably doesn’t. The three women in this book are doing their best, but poor Finn (the dog) has had it. Despite, or perhaps because of Finn’s state, the dog causes each of the women to have a moment of realisation that will change their lives.
The Weekend is a fairly short book considering how full this story is. I enjoyed watching the three women renegotiate their relationships with each other without Sylvie. The story isn’t really about ageing, although it wouldn’t be the same story if the Jude, Wendy and Adele weren’t facing old age with their differing attitudes and approaches. I loved that they judged, annoyed and were cruel to each other but immediately united when an old secret came out, when a loved one died or when an outsider challenged one of their number.
Charlotte Wood is a quite well-known and well-regarded Australian author who has previously won the Stella Prize and the Prime Minister’s Literary Award for Fiction, although I’ve never read any of her books before this. I will certainly look out for her other books.
My purchase of The Weekend by Charlotte Wood goes towards fulfilling my New Year’s resolution to buy a book by an Australian author during each month of 2020.