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The Children - Charlotte Wood

The Children

By: Charlotte Wood

Paperback | 1 September 2008 | Edition Number 1

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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Charlotte's first novel, Pieces of a Girl , was published in 1999, and won the 1998 Jim Hamilton Award for an unpublished ms.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

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