The Weekend is a shortish novel that slips down easily. The plot ultimately lets in melodrama, and the prose, like Hadley’s, is hospitable to some automatic overwriting. One character feels “run through with red-hot pokers”, another has “ice-cold perfect manners”, another has to take “the bull by the horns”. Yet with this ostensibly light touch, Wood commands the long histories of these three very different women. The focus is on the present; this is not a story about nostalgia or retrospect. But with a series of deft asides, we glean an account of their whole lives, through their memories of themselves and each other.
The best thing about this novel is its masterful condemnation of Montaigne’s expired thinking on its theme: “Whoever saw old age,” he wrote, “that did not applaud the past and condemn the present times?” Not nowadays. What gives this novel its glorious, refreshing, forthright spine is that each of its protagonists is still adamantly (often disastrously) alive, and still less afraid of death than irrelevance. I read The Weekend during the week Dame Judi Dench, at 85, became the oldest person to appear on the cover of British Vogue, and soon afterwards a photo of 70-year-old Vera Wang wearing a sports bra went viral. There seemed to be a marvellous serendipity about all that which wasn’t lost on me as I underlined these words: “Life – ideas, thinking, experience, was still there, to be mastered ... She had not finished her turn, would not sink down. She wanted more.”
As three women in their 70s reunite for a life-changing weekend, they struggle to recall what bonded them all these years as cracks start to show. An insightful novel about accepting that we are all constantly changing.