The Weekend by Australian author Charlotte Wood is described as many things on the back of the book in blurbs, but I’m not so sure about those. Basically, four women in their 70s claim they are friends, though little evidence of friendship exists. When Sylvie dies, her beach house is left full of things that Sylvia’s partner Gayle decides she can’t (or won’t?) take care of. Thus, the remaining three friends, Jude, Wendy, and Adele, are called to meet at the beach house Christmas weekend to clean the place out so it’s ready for sale.
Unfortunately, the characters are stereotypes: the bossy one, the messy one, the dramatic one. But because Wood holds information back, my perceptions of them had to change in an odd way that made me wonder why major aspects of a character were withheld. For instance, Wendy seems like a classic lonely hoarder. Her car is an unreliable junker, her dog is a 17-year-old stinky, nervous creature that would do better put down. But then, nearly 50% in, we learn she’s a famous academic with loads of money. After Wood reveals this information, suddenly Wendy is constantly thinking like an academic, drafting thesis statements in her head and growing excited by research opportunities. Thus, Wendy reads unevenly.
Not only are the characters inconsistent, they don’t interact much, especially for friends. For instance, Wood has Wendy, Jude, and Adele go out to a restaurant, but instead of the friends talking, Wood chooses to have Jude think about the past. Therefore, we miss any interactions they have that would give the book more plot instead of internal meandering. Readers don’t often get the present moment. Jude, Adele, and Wendy don’t have conversations beyond “The dog stinks, keep him outside.” Jude does not express her reasons for hating Wendy’s dog, but she thinks it:
It was detestable that Wendy should drag the poor creature everywhere with her like some kind of rotting security blanket.
Is it possible the reader becomes a friend, a complaint bucket, for the characters? I can’t interact back. Since the characters rarely talk to each other, Wood fishes up some other plot points, such as Jude thinking she sees dead Sylvia’s face is in the dog‘s and Adele running into a rival actress and inviting her over to visit, which the actress does, but then leaves without redirecting the plot.
Because The Weekend is so internal, the characters seem like a list of characteristics, not people. Jude’s never been married, Jude is has had a married lover for forty years, Jude is controlling, Jude likes cooking, Jude worked in a restaurant, Jude has no children. Adele was a famous stage actress. Adele has a “pert bum.” Adele is flexible. Adele hates manual labor. Adele loves pavlova. Etc.
Even though the “friends” have been given permission to take anything of Sylvie’s that they wish, none verbally reminisce or recall memories of Sylvie or share . . . well, anything really, of their years of knowing each other. Sylvie could have been replaced with dozens of other motives to bring these three women together, but I wondered what Wood wanted to say with these characters, characters who are so distant in the same beach house, the same pages. I read The Weekend with Biscuit, who said that if she were reading this book on the back of a motorcycle, she would have thrown it in a ditch. No littering, Biscuit! But I get the sentiment, unfortunately.