Book reviews

Posts tagged ‘The Weekend’

The Weekend by Charlotte Wood

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.

The Weekend by Bernhard Schlink


I read The Reader by Bernhard Schlink quite a while ago, and while I wouldn’t say that I enjoyed the story, the plot and characters stuck in my head. I have to say the same thing about The Weekend. The characters are not very likeable and the story has some nastiness about it, so in this case I hope I won’t remember what happened for years to come.

The story begins with Jorg, a German terrorist, being released from prison after 25 years. Jorg’s sister Christine collects him, taking him for the weekend to her country home, a secluded, run-down place she bought with a former girl-friend. Christine has arranged for a group of their old friends to spend the weekend together in an attempt to help Jorg to find his way in society again.

The group are quite prickly, although they were friends and supporters of the terrorists back in their day. The characters have a hard time coming to terms with each other as they are today.

Jorg murdered four people, and seemingly feels no remorse, arguing that had his side won, the people he killed would have been considered casualties of war and that their deaths would have been for the greater good, rather than him being trialled for murder.

I don’t know anything about German terrorism in the early 1970’s when Jorg’s crimes would have taken place, or what they were fighting for, but the use of a character who is a writer telling the story of people who jumped from the Twin Towers of the World Trade Center during the 9/11 terrorist attacks made me feel for Jorg’s victims rather than for Jorg, Christine and their friends. I found Jorg, Christine and the other characters to be unlikeable and their behaviour, unlikely.

Much of the character’s present-day behaviour made me feel uncomfortable, including the sexuality of a teenage girl who was staying with her parents over the weekend. I’ll spare you the details, but have come to the conclusion that some parents are much more liberated than other parents. The characters give each other a hard time about the past, almost in the manner of a mock-trial, but none of them seem truly remorseful for their actions, just jaded.

I think The Reader was a better book and more interesting than The Weekend, but will continue to read further works by this author.

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