1300 187 187
 
The Children - Charlotte Wood

Paperback

Published: 1st September 2008
Ships: 5 to 9 business days
5 to 9 business days
RRP $22.99
$21.80

eBook View Product

Published: 16th December 2012
Format: ePUB
$25.90

From one of Australia's finest writers, a novel that exposes the tenacious grip of childhood, the way siblings seem to grow apart but never do, and the price paid for bearing witness to the suffering of others.

You bring your children up to escape sorrow. You spend your best years trying to stop them witnessing it on television, in you, in your neighbours' faces. Then you realise, slowly, that there is no escape, that they must steer their own way through life's cruelties.

In The Children Charlotte Wood, one of Australian fiction's rising stars, delivers a short, sharp shock of a novel that takes you into the heart of a family as normal, and as broken, as any other.

When their father is critically injured, foreign correspondent Mandy and her siblings return home, bringing with them the remnants and patterns of childhood. Mandy has lived away from the country for many years. Her head is filled with images of terror and war, and her homecoming to the quiet country town - not to mention her family and marriage - only heightens her disconnection from ordinary life. Cathy, her younger sister, has stayed in regular contact with her parents, trying also to keep tabs on her brother Stephen who, for reasons nobody understands, has held himself apart from the family for years.

In the intensive care unit the children sit, trapped between their bewildered mother and one another; between old wounds and forgiveness, struggling to connect with their emotions, their past and each other. But as they wait and watch over their father, there's someone else watching too: a young wardsman, Tony, who's been waiting for Mandy to come home. As he insinuates himself into the family, the pressure, and the threat, intensify and build to a climax of devastating force.

This acutely observed novel exposes the tenacious grip of childhood, the way siblings seem to grow apart but never do, and explores the price paid for bearing witness to the suffering of others - whether far away or uncomfortably close to home. The Children marks Wood as one of our finest writers.

About the Author

Charlotte's first novel, Pieces of a Girl , was published in 1999, and won the 1998 Jim Hamilton Award for an unpublished ms. Both this and her second novel, The Submerged Cathedral (2004), were highly praised by reviewers and award judges, and the latter was shortlisted for the 2005 Miles Franklin Award and the 2005 Commonwealth Writers' Prize, South East Asia/South Pacific. She lives in Sydney.

The Children was been shortlisted in the Australian Book Industry Awards 2008 category of Literary Fiction Book of the Year

An Interview with Charlotte Wood

When did you start writing?
At uni in my mid-20s, but didn’t get serious about it till I was around 30

Who or what was the biggest inspiration for you to become a writer?
Books. I always loved reading, loved sentences. But writers who inspired me in the early days included Kate Llewellyn and Kate Grenville.

What are you reading at the moment?
Andrew O’Hagan’s Be Near Me; William Maxwell’s letters to and from Sylvia Townsend Warner called The Element of Lavishness; and am looking forward to Peter Temple’s The Broken Shore.

Who are your three favourite authors and why?
Hmm, too difficult to say. But I love Richard Ford, Robert Drewe, David Malouf, love Paddy O’Reilly’s new stories, Alice Munro and Helen Garner. They have in common a beautiful humanity, quiet appreciation of the perfect detail and a lyrical precision that’s breathtaking.

What inspired you to write The Children?
There were several. For a start, I have always been interested in family relationships, especially between siblings. But the ideas for the book really began percolating when I met up for an evening with an old friend who had become a foreign correspondent, who was home in Australia for a visit between long assignments in Kabul and Baghdad. I found it difficult to understand why and how my friend – a bookish, sensitive gal who like me had grown up in regional NSW – had now come to seem a sort of tough-nut reporter, how she now inhabited a life steeped in violence and the suffering of others. She seemed to me that evening to have developed a kind of carapace to protect herself from what all that might mean, and, equally it seemed, to shield herself from the judgement of stay-at-home others - like me. (I should add here that since then, thanks largely to my friend who has been incredibly generous in helping with my research for this book, and being very supportive of it, I have come to a much deeper understanding of the costs of that kind of life).

But back then, over the next year or so I kept thinking about what might lead a sensitive young woman from ordinary journalism into that kind of adrenaline-fuelled existence, to live not only with its dangers but the horrific suffering of others. I wondered what it must be like to come home from that and try to settle into ordinary, insular life in Australia. At the same time I had begun thinking about a story where several adult siblings go home to the country town they grew up in, facing up to their prickly relationships with each other.

As well, like so many people, I have over the last several years begun to fear switching on the television news. The onslaught of imagery of global suffering and my feelings of guilt and impotence associated with watching them has for a long time had me wondering about the way individuals in rich Western countries respond to these images; how we absorb them in between unpacking the groceries and going out to a nice restaurant for dinner. The obscenity of this has always bothered me. But is it better to do this than switch off altogether? At what point is it acceptable to turn away from the pain of strangers?

Then in my writing, I wanted to create a bigger, and more overtly dramatic story than I had in the past - and so all these strands began to plait together, and the country town became a metaphor for the family, but also Australia. My reporter Mandy’s return home creates a clash of the big world and the small world, and hopefully creates an exploration of the duties and the price of witnessing the suffering of others.

Are any of the characters taken from real life?
They’re all me, in one form or another. You take parts of yourself and test them against that character’s circumstances, and imagine the playing-out of the what-if relationships you might have with the other characters. If they weren’t deeply about me, I couldn’t write them.  The circumstances of their lives, though, are sometimes taken from the lives of people I’ve known – like my war reporter friend.

Where do you do your writing?
At home mainly. I’ve written on the couch or at the dining table in the past, but now I’m lucky enough to have a studio separate from the house, which is up high and has good windows for stickybeaking at passers-by. But there are times I need to get away and work for an intensive period alone – I’ve worked in friends’ houses, at Varuna in the Blue Mountains, the Kelly St Writers’ cottage in Hobart, at Arthur Boyd’s artists’ retreat at Bundanon, all of which have been hugely productive times.

What’s the last piece of writing you hated and threw in the bin?
I was 50,000 words into The Children when I worked out what it was about. That day I threw out 30,000 words. I didn’t hate them, I loved them! But they had to go. I finished that day with a very stiff gin and tonic! And after I chucked those extraneous words, the novel began to take off.

When you’re not writing what do you do?
Work in journalism, cook lots, muck around in our miniscule garden, hang out with my husband Sean and have lots of friends & family round for dinner.

What are you working on at the moment?
I’ve begun another novel, but it’s very embryonic and too early to say if it’s going to work…

Charlotte Wood

Charlotte Wood is an Australian fiction writer.

Her fourth novel, Animal People, will be released by Allen & Unwin in October 2011. Her most recent work was to edit Brothers & Sisters, a collection of short stories and non-fiction about siblings by 12 of Australia’s finest writers.

Her last novel, The Children, was described by Australian Book Review as “a graceful and empathetic portrayal of one family seeking to understand itself," and The Australian described her as “a captivating, questing writer whose work is well worth watching”.

The Children was shortlisted for the Australian Book Industry Association’s literary fiction book of the year. Charlotte’s previous novel, The Submerged Cathedral, was shortlisted for the Miles Franklin Award and the Commonwealth Writers’ Prize in its region 2005. Her first book, Pieces of a Girl, was also shortlisted for several prizes.

Charlotte has answered our Ten Terrifying Questions - read them here

Visit Charlotte Wood's Booktopia Author Page


ISBN: 9781741756043
ISBN-10: 1741756049
Audience: General
Format: Paperback
Language: English
Number Of Pages: 336
Published: 1st September 2008
Publisher: Allen & Unwin
Dimensions (cm): 19.5 x 13.0  x 2.7
Weight (kg): 0.32
Edition Number: 1