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43 Reviews
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75 of 78 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The most thought-provoking novel of the year
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...
Published on 15 Mar. 2009 by Jason Bennett

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13 of 14 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars A strong debut...but not a flawless one.
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...
Published on 19 July 2009 by BlestMiss T


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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Excellent idea, well executed, 25 Aug. 2011
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This review is from: The Wilderness (Paperback)
The story of Jake's descent into the oblivion of this disease is incredibly well researched and sensitively portrayed. I found the flashback chapters necessary to an understanding of the whole, but not nearly as convincing as the 'real time' chapters. Such was the power of the writing that I could feel my own world closing in around me just as Jake's does.
There were just one or two bits that I found distracting. His relationship with his mother, coupled with his intention to set up some form of Zionist group detracted from the main thrust of the book - but could be lightly read without ruining the experience.
This debut novel shows the enormous potential of the author and I await her next offering with eager anticipation. Perhaps I was just a little mean in only giving the book 4 stars.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Outstanding novel by a beginner, 19 Nov. 2011
This review is from: The Wilderness (Paperback)
I have just finished reading "The Wilderness" and found it incredibly moving, as well as beautifully written and poetic. I agreed that the characters can seem a bit underdeveloped or one-sided but I put that down to experiencing them through what remains of Jake's memory. I don't know and guess no one really can know what it is like to lose your memory and have your whole self disintegrate but I think that Samantha Harvey has made an excellent attempt to convey what it would be like. As I have been reading a bit about dementia as some one near to me may be suffering, I was very interested to read this in order to try to understand more. I would highly recommend this.
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Wilderness, 30 Aug. 2009
By 
Antenna (UK) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: The Wilderness (Paperback)
The beauty and perceptiveness of the writing gives an insight - insofar as I can judge- into the troubling topic of Alzheimer's, without filling the reader with a grim depression. It is impressive that a young woman can enter into the fragmenting mind of a much older man. Although the story lacks a strong plot as such - it is largely a series of memories and reflections looking back over a lifetime - my interest was held by the way in which information leaks out, with some "key" points not becoming "clear" until the final pages. The most compelling aspect of the book is its conveyance of the false nature of memory, in particular when the mind becomes clouded. The same incident or snatch of converstation is often described several times in different contexts, leaving a sense of confusion as to what has really occurred. Related to this is the way in which a small image - a recurring memory of a peg - can assume more importance thatn a major life-changing event. Then there are the frequent effective descriptions of the destructive effect of the endless confusion in Jake's life - contantly distracted during his attempts to make coffee, he eventually boils the coffee-maker dry.

Many of the descriptions are striking and memorable: the stark beauty of the moors, the evocation of Sara's Jewish culture, Jake's meeting with his adult daughter Alice when he steels himself to admit his Alzheimer's to her, only for us to be shown that the whole elaborate event is a probable figment of his imagination. Many scenes from the past have a dreamlike quality - their plausiblity or otherwise ceases to matter, yet they are deeply significant for our understanding of Jake's life and his condition.

Many of the dialogues are interesting and humorous, weaving in comments on such weighty themes as religion, the Palestinian-Israeli conflict and architecture without becoming sententious. Some of the real love and affection between the main characters - despite any infidelity- is portrayed well. Several themes are interwoven - the book is not just about Alzheimer's but about how people can love each other despite holding very different opinions, about the pain of unrequited love (Eleanor's) and the loneliness of living in an alien culture (Sara's). There is a good deal of wry humour - as in Jake's regular meetings with the coolly professional fox-haired woman doctor, in which he fails to pass her basic tests of his faculties, whilst maintaining an inner stream of complex, albeit twisted perception and logic.

My main reservation is that some of the characters are insufficiently developed and therefore not wholly convincing - the flamboyant Rook and his granddaughter Joy, also Henry as an adult. This is a pity as they clearly have the potential to come alive in our minds as well as Jake, his wife Helen and to some extent the long-suffering Eleanor. Also, although it is probably justified to show Jake's final disintegration, the final pages seem superfluous apart from "tying up a few loose ends" in a story that is all about loose ends.

At the beginning, I wondered whether it would have been better to let the reader deduce the nature of Jake's problem from his erratic behaviour. I felt at times that I had "got the point" and my interest waned - perhaps I was simply tired by the amount of mental energy this book requires. However, whenever I returned to it, I was impressed again by the sheer quality of the writing. This book merits being read quite slowly - or reread to absorb the imagery and dense mesh of ideas which the writer has woven in.
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4.0 out of 5 stars A delicate, beautiful little book, 4 July 2010
By 
Eddie (London, UK) - See all my reviews
This review is from: The Wilderness (Paperback)
This a wonderful debut - literary fiction at its best. For a young, first time novelist Harvey shows a real lightness of touch and great gifts for detail.

I felt the structure of the book, somehow whimsical and fleeting yet purposeful, perfectly suited the subject matter - we are inside the head of an Alzheimers sufferer, and the memories and fictions which the book invites us to piece together are the memories and fictions which the protagonist himself is determinedly trying to shore up. 'The endless drudgery of the days' is captured in a way that somehow manages to be anything but dull - the reader wills Jake forward despite the knowledge - sad and true - that he has nowhere to go.

If I had a criticism, it would be that the passages which take place in Jake's 'present' are at times less intricate, poetic and compelling than those set in his past. But this is a very minor quibble - Harvey has huge talent and it will be fascinating to see what she does next
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5.0 out of 5 stars breath-taking, 13 April 2011
This review is from: The Wilderness (Paperback)
I read this whilst on holiday and pretty much became a recluse to my family the whole time we were away. Despite brilliant sunshine, I was hunched over in the back of the car, completely gripped. Beautiful, poignant, confident - Samantha Harvey has awe-inspiring skill as a writer. This book was so thoughtfully and carefully written, every sentence was a delight and its slow unfolding, haunting images and echoing themes kept me frantically turning the pages. I just read another reviewer's advice to read this slowly and savour it. I rushed through it in order to not completely miss out on my holiday but this is one of those rare books that deserves - and willingly gets - a second reading. I cannot wait for Ms Harvey's next book!
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Compassion in the wilderness, 16 Feb. 2012
By 
J. Koralek (UK) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: The Wilderness (Hardcover)
What an original, perceptive, compassionate writer. Original in her writing style. Perceptive of her characters. 'I could not put it down', as they say and for once it was true.
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4.0 out of 5 stars A superb fictional exploration of living with dementia, 7 July 2013
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This review is from: The Wilderness (Kindle Edition)
Insightful, atmospheric portrayal of someone dealing with dementia
The narrative moves easily between the past and the present
There are times the reader is left puzzled and confused empathising with the main character
as to what is real and what is imagined.
The characters from Jake, to the members of his family and friends are skilfully drawn though at the end of the day it is Jake's reality and dementia that are at the heart of this book.
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5.0 out of 5 stars deteriorating mind, 27 April 2010
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This review is from: The Wilderness (Paperback)
The Wilderness

So cleverly written that you feel you are inside Jake's head as he deteriorates with Alzheimer's disease. Jake's memories are plagued with confusing leaps from past to present and back again, confusion between his first and second wife, loss of commonplace words, and eventually inability to recognize even his wife and son.

This was superb, hard work, distressing, all at the same time - excellent!
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5.0 out of 5 stars Take your time, 25 May 2011
By 
astanaut (Copenhagen, Denmark) - See all my reviews
This review is from: The Wilderness (Paperback)
It's been nearly two years since I read this book as one of six shortlisted Booker entries. In the meantime, I've forgotten which one was my favourite, but Samantha Harvey's low key empathy strikes a chord that still humming. Be glad if you have the mind and ability to remember. And if the cover looks anything like a brain to you - with birds leaving - you may just have the mindset to enjoy it.
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3.0 out of 5 stars Topical subject, 18 Dec. 2013
By 
Mrs. C. Gleeson (Devon, UK) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: The Wilderness (Paperback)
This book takes a look at how a person suffering from early onset Altzheimer's (age 57) deals with the disease. The book itself is in fair condition with quite a few biro'd markings in the first chapter which weren't mentioned in the sellers description. Delivery was on time.
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The Wilderness
The Wilderness by Samantha Harvey (Paperback - 4 Feb. 2010)
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