Passages of Writing: Animal people, Charlotte Wood.


Book: Animal People by Charlotte Wood.  Allen & Unwin 2011. This edition: e-book, Allen & Unwin, 2011.

Why: Charlotte Wood’s writing is always grounded and insightful but never pretentious. The characters are so real I want to cringe as a human to be seeing how we know people speak right there on the page:

‘So who organised the lesbian? ‘…Belinda snickered into her mineral water… (p233)


‘It’s sort of boho, ‘Fiona said…’ which doesn’t really suit her.’ When he asked why not, Cathy said drily, ‘because she’s more ho than bo,’and Fiona snorted into her glass. (P202)

Writers are always taking the time to slow the reader down to think about things in a way that is normally missed. It’s one of the things I love about writing. And it’s a little bit disarming to think that someone may be listening to the way you eat an apple from another room.

He heard her set a knife down in the chopping board before going to answer the door.

He had never before known the cadences of a person’s movements like this, except in his own family, as a child. It was not just her tread; footsteps were easy, especially here in Fiona’s house when there were just the two of them and the girls, whose hard little heels struck the floorboards like mallets. But even elsewhere, in other houses, in shops, he could tell Fiona’s presence by the sound and rhythm of her movements: keys in a handbag, the taking of a breath. Surely humans could only breathe in so many ways – inhalation, exhalation could not possibly be so individual – but still, he always knew her. He knew the sounds of her swallow, her bite of an apple from another room.

p.190 Animal people by Charlotte Wood

Passages of Writing: The Children, Charlotte Wood.

Book: The Children by Charlotte Wood. Allen & Unwin, 2007. This edition: 2008, E-book, Allen & Unwin.

Why: These few words take me whooshing back to my childhood summers. I can see my own mother waving like this, with her whole arm, I can smell the geraniums, the hot concrete and the rubber of bike tyres on quiet roads. Were every child’s summers like this? I really don’t know but Charlotte Wood has mined pinned. It’s the magic of great writing that can do this.

Mandy looks up at the kitchen window, sees her mother waving with her whole arm, and then disappearing from view. Mandy stands on the driveway in the still, hot air, a confusion of childhood smells and sensations swelling up at her — the green acidity of broken geranium stalks, the metallic taste of concrete. The silty red dirt, the quiet of the streets, the rubber of bicycle tyres. All the long hours  of all the flat, empty afternoons.

P. 45 The Children by Charlotte Wood.

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