Oh how time and age do fray the ties that bind. Three seventy-something friends Judy, Wendy, and Adele, gather at the weekend house of Sylvie, who died almost a year earlier. The timing couldn’t be any more auspicious, it’s Christmas, nor surely the task at hand, to clear out the old holiday home on the coast, before it is sold.
Sylvie’s long-term partner, Gail, meanwhile has returned to her native Ireland, with surprising haste, telling the women little more than they are free to take whatever they want. Such is the premise for The Weekend (published by Allen & Unwin, 2019), the sixth novel of Sydney based Australian author Charlotte Wood.
It may be the festive season, but the mood is far from jubilant. The gathering becomes something of a meditation as the women each take stock of their lives. Their hopes, fears, and regrets. They are also given over to comparing themselves with each other, and passing judgement on the perceived shortcomings of the others.
With Sylvie gone, so it seems has the merry dynamic that once held the group together. In its absence, the hitherto muted foibles and idiosyncrasies of each woman come bubbling to the surface. And as the melancholy sets in, there are times when the three are wrestling with the temptation to lunge at each other’s throats.
The Weekend makes me think that group friendships are a little like sports teams. A charismatic key player is lost, and the remainder of the side plunges into turmoil. But teams are seldom about single players, and when the going gets tough, the tough get going, when a tragedy strikes in the third act.
Yet for its discord and drama, The Weekend is far from morbid. An ever-present dark deprecating humour, a self-deprecating humour even, underscores the story. Maybe this is what ageing is about. Not taking yourself, or the world, too seriously. Food for thought perhaps for anyone who doesn’t consider themselves yet to be aged.