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The Wilderness by Samantha Harvey

Good Housekeeping's view...

March 2009 Good Housekeeping selection.

Shortlisted for the Orange Prize for Fiction 2009

With an extraordinary portrayal of how the mind reconfigures when Alzheimer’s takes hold, this novel is about a man called Jake and the loosening of his grip on the world. A deeply involving foray into the mind that reveals the essence of the man is still there and fighting.

Lovereading view...

This is an incredibly thoughtful and insightful debut novel. Tackling the issue of Alzheimer’s from the sufferer’s point of view Harvey tells a thoughtful and sensitive story. Compelling stuff.

If you like Samantha Harvey you might also like to read books by Penelope Lively, Jenn Ashworth and Evie Wyld.

What is Good Housekeeping


The Wilderness by Samantha Harvey

It’s Jake’s birthday. He is sitting in a small plane, being flown over the landscape that has been the backdrop to his life – his childhood, his marriage, his work, his passions. Now he is in his early sixties, and he isn’t quite the man he used to be. He has lost his wife, his son is in prison, and he is about to lose his past. Jake has Alzheimer’s.

As the disease takes hold of him, Jake struggles to hold on to his personal story, to his memories and identity, but they become increasingly elusive and unreliable. What happened to his daughter? Is she alive, or long dead? And why exactly is his son in prison? What went so wrong in his life? There was a cherry tree once, and a yellow dress, but what exactly do they mean? As Jake, assisted by ‘poor Eleanor’, a childhood friend with whom for some unfathomable reason he seems to be sleeping, fights the inevitable dying of the light, the key events of his life keep changing as he tries to grasp them, and what until recently seemed solid fact is melting into surreal dreams or nightmarish imaginings. Is there anything he’ll be able to salvage from the wreckage? Beauty, perhaps, the memory of love, or nothing at all?

From the first sentence to the last, The Wilderness holds us in its grip. This is writing of extraordinary power and beauty.

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About the Author

Samantha Harvey was born in England in 1975. She has lived in Ireland, New Zealand and Japan writing, travelling and teaching, and in recent years has co-founded an environmental charity alongside her novel writing. She completed with distinction the Bath Spa Creative Writing MA course in 2005, where she was shortlisted for the PFD prize. The Wilderness is her first novel.

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Book Info

Publication date

5th February 2009


Samantha Harvey

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