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The Wilderness Hardcover – 5 Feb 2009

43 customer reviews

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Product details

  • Hardcover: 336 pages
  • Publisher: Jonathan Cape Ltd; First Edition edition (5 Feb. 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0224086073
  • ISBN-13: 978-0224086073
  • Product Dimensions: 14.2 x 2.7 x 22.3 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (43 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 879,904 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Product Description

Review

`expansive and serene... clever, writerly.' -- Daily Mail

`this book touches a resounding chord of melancholy. The author Samantha Harvey, whose debut this is, is very talented' -- Evening Standard

"The book's account of the unravelling effect of Alzheimer's disease is so vivid' -- Harpers Bazaar

"This book touches a resounding chord of melancholy. The author, Samantha Harvey, whose debut this is, is very talented" -- The Scotsman

"A brave and intelligent crafting of narrative [...] a mesmerising work of patient compassion." -- The Independent, March 2009

"A stunning composition of human fragility and intensity." -- The Guardian, March 2009

`A deeply involving foray into the mind that reveals the essence of the man is still there fighting.' -- Good Housekeeping

`Mesmerising'
-- Marie Claire

`a forensic examination of loss and misunderstanding, a paean to the vital force of stories.'
-- Observer, Tom Webber

`easy read... beautiful prose...brilliantly written novel'
-- Sheerluxe

Review

`A deeply involving foray into the mind that reveals the essence of the man is still there fighting.'

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Customer Reviews

4.1 out of 5 stars

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

75 of 78 people found the following review helpful By Jason Bennett on 15 Mar. 2009
Format: Hardcover
You have to hand it to Samantha Harvey. She's a gutsy writer. Not only is her main character the opposite sex to her and double her age. Her protagonist, Jake, is also suffering from Alzheimer's. Whilst a few celebrated authors have been bold enough to give a character Alzheimer's, no one (that I am aware of) has ever attempted to write a whole novel from the point of view of the sufferer. This is a truly unique novel.

And Samantha Harvey not only pulls this off, but does it with confidence, artistic flair, wit and warmth. It is a sensitive novel told with heart and passion and raises not only questions about what it means to have Alzheimer's but also what it means to be human and alive and loved. As we move through our lives, how we see ourselves and are in turn perceived, is built from our memories. We are the cumulative product, after all, of our own lives, made up from the things we've done, the experiences we've had. Without the memories of this then, what are we? Who are we?

These are just some of the questions tackled in The Wilderness. As Jake slowly succumbs to the disease so his memories fracture, the threads that tie them together - the very web of the novel - becomes tatty, torn and broken. The plot lines that form the novel - the various periods of Jake's life - swill in and around each other. The revisited memories bleed into each other, fact into fiction, fiction into fact, tales within tales, memories within memories...

It is not depressing. This novel is life affirming, filled with characters that, whilst all highly intelligent and philosophically minded, are never annoying. Their quirks, their struggles, their minor triumphs bring them to life. Jake himself is not always appealing as a character but he is devastatingly human.
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23 of 24 people found the following review helpful By B J Heaven on 28 April 2009
Format: Hardcover
Your journey in life is very personal to you. In your head you carry around experiences and knowledge that has been built up throughout your lifetime. Alzheimer's disease slowly strangles, tangles and erases your brain processes.

How does that feel? How does that affect you? What is it that makes you you? This is the journey that The Wilderness takes you on.

This should be a dark and depressing subject but Harvey lifts the reader with her poetic and brilliantly crafted prose into a life-affirming crescendo that does not disappoint.
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13 of 14 people found the following review helpful By BlestMiss T on 19 July 2009
Format: Paperback
First of all let it be said that the glowing reviews about Samantha Harvey's prowess as a writer are no exaggeration. She should be commended for tackling such a weighty subject as Alzheimer's from the perspective of the sufferer, Jake. The way the story loops and memories interchange and become more fragmented as Jake's condition deteriorates is deftly handled. She manages to create a sense of cohesion despite the desultory path of Jake's thoughts, as his Alzheimer's gets worse.

Samantha has a poet's touch with language although at times it becomes self-indulgent and that is the first of the novel's flaws. Harvey tends to over-do it with imagery making the story unnecessarily verbose in places; a waste of words. She's not the first to do it, neither do I think it's a rookie mistake, just her style. The problem is it comes across as a bit pretentious.

As some reviewers have noted Jake is not an altogether sympathetic character-which shouldn't itself be an overall flaw in a book, but for me in this case it was. He IS wonderfully complicated and Harvey's depiction of him is astute. He seems to have inherited his chronic cynicism from his mother, Sara to whom he's inordinately close; protective of her and her Jewish heritage that she forsook for her austere, insensitive husband.

Jake's marriage to Helen is one of the books central themes. He justifies his selfishness and unfair demands from Helen, with whimsical reasoning that she doesn't have enough darkness in her; her Christianity bemuses and irritates him in equal measure. His warped reasoning allows him to justify a one-night stand with a woman named Joy who, on her departure to America, he later mythologises and for whom he even hopes to abandon his marriage.
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28 of 31 people found the following review helpful By Cassi on 26 Feb. 2009
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This is a beautifully and intelligently written novel which covers a subject that could be dark and frustrating. For this reason when I first came across it I was a little apprehensive, but I need not have worried. The author carried me through its tricky subject matter with such lovely writing and such wisdom that I often found myself stopping to re-read a sentence, just to savour, learn from and admire the superb craftmanship. I loved the main character, Jake - his story, his life, his experiences held me in thrall- and I felt I wanted to defend and protect him as he struggled to understand the vagaries and heartbreaks of his constantly changing internal landscape. The book made me think about all the people, particularly the elderly ones, who I might ignore as I pass them by in the street, never seeing, or even looking for, the intelligence that lurks behind their outward appearance. Like Jake we all have our story, and all of us change the sequence and the substance of that story in subtle and not so subtle ways as time redefines our experiences of them.
By the end of the novel I was struck by several things. I missed Jake. I realised that I had just read something way out of the ordinary. I recognised that an extraordinary talent had just introduced itself to the world. And I was totally baffled: how on earth did this writer manage to make a topic so tricky, read so well and with such coherence. It must have been a mighty task, yet it was carried out with such a sure hand. Read this book; it's great. And to the author, hurry up and write another book please.
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