The New Wilderness: SHORTLISTED FOR THE BOOKER PRIZE 2020 Kindle Edition
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Editors' pick: The best speculative fiction makes everything seem real, even as it bends reality. Diane Cook has created a reality that delivered me to the Wilderness State, where Bea and her daughter struggle to find a better way of existing, even as forces—both natural and man-made—are gathering against them."—Chris Schluep, Amazon Editor --This text refers to an alternate kindle_edition edition.
‘Cook’s propulsive tale is moved along as much by the engrossingly complex mother-daughter relationship that develops as by the Community’s grim attempts to survive… The New Wilderness is a well-formed and powerful piece of writing.’ (The Times, Siobhan Murphy )
'The New Wilderness is a many-layered dystopian fiction set in the not too distant future. It's the environmental novel of our times. We were impressed by the novel taking on the greatest story of our times – climate change – and yet it's a novel that focuses through relationships.' (Lemn Sissay, Booker Prize judge )
'The New Wilderness is a virtuosic debut, brutal and beautiful in equal measure.' (Emily St. John Mandel, author of Station Eleven and The Glass Hotel)
'Soulful, urgent... Cook is adept at matter-of-factly deploying unadorned detail to deadpanning, gut-plummeting effect... Supremely well-crafted... So much else is broached in these vivid, timely pages: tribalism, courage, consumption, storytelling itself – an art that Cook spirits back to its spark-enlivened, campfire origins. What lingers, though, beyond the awesome power of Bea and Agnes as heroines, is pure wonderment at all in this world of ours that is not human.' (Observer)
'Wonderfully imagined and written, this is a tense future-shock novel that's also a tender exploration of a mother-daughter relationship under extreme pressure... An urgent novel reflective of what is happening in society right now.' (Booker Prize judges)
'The New Wilderness is Diane Cook's debut novel that brings to life a wildly imaginative and terrifying dystopian story of a mother's battle to save her daughter from a world ravaged by climate change. Touching on humanity and our contempt for nature, this is a timely and compelling novel.' (Independent)
'This Booker-longlisted novel's driving questions – who will live and who will die? And which kind of leadership will triumph along the way? – remind us, in a compelling fashion, why we read at all: to learn how better to survive.' (New Statesman)
'The unease between mother and daughter as they navigate disparate understandings of self, belonging, society and each other is the beating heart of the novel... Cook takes command of a fast-paced, thrilling story to ask stomach-turning questions in a moment when it would benefit every soul to have their stomach turned by the prospect of the future she envisions.' (Téa Obreht, Observer)
'A visceral, elemental performance... Dense with believable detail.' (The Sunday Times)
'Riveting... Bleakly compelling, and leavened by wry, sparkling humour that Cook combines seamlessly with existential dread.' (Daily Telegraph)
'This gut-wrenching story of survival, danger, power, control and, most importantly, love is one you won’t want to put down.' (CNN)
'This Booker-longlisted novel’s driving questions – who will live and who will die? And which kinds of leadership will triumph along the way? – remind us, in a compelling fashion, why we read at all: to learn how better to survive.' (New Statesman )
'It is the anthropological acuity in Cook's writing that makes it so persuasive… The chief power of The New Wilderness, and what distinguishes it from less successful environmental dystopian fiction, is Cook’s talent for world-building.' (Lamorna Ash TLS)
'In her gripping and provoking debut novel, Cook extends the shrewd and implacable dramatization of our catastrophic assault on the biosphere that she so boldly launched in her short story collection, Man V. Nature (2014)... Violence, death, tribalism, lust, love, betrayals, wonder, genius and courage – all are enacted in this stunningly incisive and complexly suspenseful tale akin to dystopian novels by Margaret Atwood and Claire Vaye Watkins.' (Booklist (starred review))
'This Booker-longlisted novel also paints a deft portrait of human nature.' (Mail on Sunday)
'Cook leavens her satire with sly wit and real wisdom, expertly deconstructing the borderline separating human beings and other animals.' (Guardian, Best Science Fiction &. Fantasy Books 2020 )
'A wry, speculative debut novel... Cook's unsettling, darkly humorous tale explores maternal love and man's disdain for nature with impressive results.' (Publishers Weekly (starred review))
'The New Wilderness left me as stunned as a deer in headlights. Gut-wrenching and heart-wrecking, this is a book that demands to be read, and urgently. With beauty and compassion, Diane Cook writes about the precariousness of life on this planet, about the things that make us human — foremost the love between mothers and daughters, at once complex and elemental. Cook observes humanity as a zoologist might — seeing us exactly as the strange animals we really are.' (Rachel Khong, author of Goodbye, Vitamin)
'An absolutely riveting and propulsive novel. Terrifying, and as real as can be. Epic in scale and story; granular and recognisable in people and place. The New Wilderness is surely an instant classic in our stories of survival, sovereignty and adaptation. Cook's writing is so sure-footed, prescient and trustworthy, it's all the reader can do to follow her. For fans of Ling Ma's Severance and Hernan Diaz's In the Distance, and many, many readers in between.' (Caoilinn Hughes, author of The Wild Laughter)
'Cook's is a fresh and vivid voice; it's unsurprising the likes of Miranda July and Roxane Gay are fans.' (Observer)
'Cook has a keen eye for the relentless weigh-ups of parenthood... The tale of a hazardously self-denying lifestyle pursued on health grounds, it has uncanny resonance.' (Metro )
'Urgent and inventive... This quietly raging novel deserves its place on the Booker longlist. People who switch off when they hear the phrase "climate change" should read it. And so should everyone else.' (Irish Times )
‘Unsettling but riveting debut novel… Halfway through, the story changes to the daughter’s perspective – a clever ploy by Cook… It’s this meditation on mother-daughter relationships (and by extension, humanity’s relationship with Mother Nature) that provides the emotional heft in this thrilling, allegorical tale, a cross between a nature documentary, ecological nightmare and a Bear Grylls reality survival show… The New Wilderness is bleakly compelling, and leavened by wry, sparkling humour that Cook combines seamlessly with existential dread.’ (Irish Independent)
'Diane Cook upends old tropes of autonomy, survival, and civilization to reveal startling new life teeming beneath, giving a glimpse into the ways the world we think we know could come unstuck and come to life in the care of the women and girls of the future. This is not just a thrilling, curious, vibrant book — but an essential one, a compass to guide us into the future.' (Alexandra Kleeman, author of You Too Can Have a Body Like Mine)
'The emotional core of the story is the relationship between Bea and Agnes, whose perspectives drive the narrative. It’s a damning piece of horror cli-fi, but it's also a gripping and profound examination of love and sacrifice.' (BuzzFeed)
'The New Wilderness strips us of our veneer of civilisation and exposes us for what we are: driven to survive, capable of shocking cruelty and profound, fierce love. This story of what a mother does to save her daughter is unflinching, horrifying, forgiving, deeply moving, and filled with truth that stayed with this mother long after the final page.' (Helen Sedgwick, author of The Comet Seekers)
'The push-pull of ambivalent but powerful love between mother and daughter centers the novel... Cook also raises uncomfortable questions: How far will a person go to survive, and what sacrifices will she or won't she make for those she loves? This ecological horror story (particularly horrifying now) explores painful regions of the human heart.' (Kirkus (starred review))
'The novel tackles the deepest of human emotions—as well as big ideas about the planet—in satisfying ways. Also, it’s a page-turner!' (LitHub)
'As close to experiencing a Picasso as literature can get.' (Téa Obreht, author of The Tiger's Wife (on Man V. Nature))
'An imaginative, dystopian look at what our world could become… I was gripped by how vivid the story was, how expertly Diane Cook got into the dynamics of a group of strangers surviving in the wild, and their relationship with those in power.' (Hey Alma - Favourite Books for Summer)
'Precise, beautiful and matter-of-fact... Cook’s rendering of the numberless threats her characters face – both from too much nature and too little – makes The New Wilderness a tense and absorbing read, while her attention to the complicated intensity of human relationships gives the work its power.' (Literary Review )
'A big book full of characters and rich in imagination... The only debut novel on the shortlist that never feels like one.' (Irish Times )
'Dazzling' (Psychologies )
'It's entirely understandable that in trying times you might want to avoid reading stories about people trying to survive dystopia, but Diane Cook's The New Wilderness is my best argument for giving it a shot. In this beautiful novel, the United States has become largely unliveable and so Bea takes her ailing daughter Agnes to live in one of the last patches of wilderness... In that possibility Cook finds humor, incredible heart and something like hope.' (NPR, Best Books of the Year )--This text refers to an alternate kindle_edition edition.
- ASIN : B081Z9WY1M
- Publisher : Oneworld Publications (July 30, 2020)
- Publication date : July 30, 2020
- Language : English
- File size : 1459 KB
- Text-to-Speech : Enabled
- Screen Reader : Supported
- Enhanced typesetting : Enabled
- X-Ray : Enabled
- Word Wise : Enabled
- Print length : 421 pages
- Page numbers source ISBN : 0062333135
- Lending : Not Enabled
- Best Sellers Rank: #676,702 in Kindle Store (See Top 100 in Kindle Store)
- Customer Reviews:
Top reviews from the United States
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I get the point she was trying to make about man’s destruction of nature and the inner workings of mother - daughter relationships, but none of it rang true to me.
Plus, at almost 400 pages, I did not underline one sentence for its beauty or inherit truth. I find that sad.
I’m not a writer, but as a literacy teacher I was woefully disappointed.
The New Wilderness by Diane Cook takes place in a dystopian, nearly apocalyptical future where civilisation, living in a giant city crumbles under climate change and pollution.
But a small group of people take part of an experiment to live in the last, vast wilderness, to demonstrate that people can live in nature without destroying it. Truly becoming nomadic hunters & gatherers, remotely monitored for any transgressions. The first half of the book follows Bea, who comes with her young daughter to the wilderness as a last chance for survival of the girl who is dying from an air pollution caused illness.
The novel is absolutely brilliant, terrifying, a study of motherly love, it is also heartbreaking with terrible betrayals, and suspenseful - all this following trekking people who have limited contact with the decaying civilisation. A story without compromise as you will notice during the hard hitting opening pages. The novel also shows how the young girl becomes more primal, raw and attuned to nature over time.
all this is not written as a survivalist pamphlet, it is much more literary in approach. In that sense it is more in the style of that great modern apocalyptic novel Station Eleven - the author of which wrote an enthusiastic blurb about The New Wilderness.
Apparently it is already being produced as a TV series, not sure if it can capture the intensity.
In short, absolutely recommend, a true discovery that will linger long in the mind.
PS - the reddish-hot-pink used on the jacket’s back should only be used with a pair of 3D glasses. Who can read that?
Top reviews from other countries
Diane Cook’s 400-page book about people walking aimlessly around a wilderness has wandered onto the Booker Prize longlist and is on its way to being adapted by Warner Bros. Television. I do not envy the director who has to find some direction in what already felt like a protracted television series minus all the good bits.
The juiciest action takes place before the book starts: Bea flees the City with her poorly daughter Agnes and husband Glen, who, alongside 17 others, form the Community, a nomadic tribe fighting against the elements and wild animals in the Wilderness State. The limited action actually described within the time frame of the novel itself is comparatively sedate. Hundreds of paragraphs are devoted to walking: walking through rivers; walking through sage fields; walking through forests; walking up mountains; there might have been some sleepwalking, or that might have been me dropping off. The walking is tedious for the characters, but does that justify boring the reader? If The New Wilderness needed to be written at all, it should have started earlier in the timeline of events, when the characters first arrived in the Wilderness. Or it should have started at page 139, when one of the characters deserts the others, returning to the City, creating a vacuum that changes the relationships of the group and offers a glimmer of intrigue.
Thanks to the marketing hype, readers go into the novel expecting to discover a dystopian near-future with a landscape ravaged by climate change and pollution. Disappointingly, Cook’s world building is lazy. The novel is simply set in an uninhabited area of land in which the characters scoff at the quaint antiques of the old world, such as fireplaces. How droll! She hints that over-population is the cause of pollution that in turn threatens the ever-expanding City and causes characters to flee to the last Wilderness. She drops hints about a malign Administration controlling things, but I had difficulty believing that any government that allowed inner-city building to spin out of control would cherish a wild landmass enough to preserve it and limit its inhabitants to just 20 in number. Equally incongruous is the fact that the Community are controlled by rangers, yet individuals have the option to return to the City at any time they choose. The concept is weak. The New Wilderness is Lord of the Flies without the plane crash or the peril or the literary prose. It is The Walking Dead without the zombies.
Something that shook me out of my ennui was the portrayal of female sexuality, which was problematic to say the least. One female character flagrantly uses sex to assume joint leadership of the Community. Another female’s foremost character trait is her longing to get pregnant so as to secure the favour of a man. Meanwhile, the 12- or 13-year-old protagonist, Agnes, shortly after her first period, craves sexual intercourse with the only teenage boy in the group:
"she would have to have real sex to get pregnant and what they were doing wasn’t sex. Agnes knew it wasn’t real sex but didn’t know how to make it real sex... She had even tried to trick him one day by insisting the anthill they’d been sitting next to belonged to a rare poisonous kind of ant and that they needed to undress quickly... She had needs."
I am surprised this got published in 2020. It perpetuates disgusting misogynist tropes about insatiable female sexuality and young girls entrapping older men, the kind of stereotypes that are often spouted as excuses by paedophiles and rapists, rather than included in supposedly literary novels by middle-aged female authors. It turned my stomach, and clearly that wasn’t Cook’s intention. In seeking to write something fresh and liberating, she has penned something regressive and disempowering.
When it wasn’t about the sexual desires of children, this book was easy to read. The prose was clear, albeit a little colloquial and often repetitive. The narrative voice switched fairly comfortably from Bea’s to Agnes’s perspective. However, except insofar as it shunned action, there was nothing literary about it. Nevertheless, it is worth remembering that half of last year’s Booker Prize was awarded to an exceedingly easy read that failed to live up to its promise of literary merit (The Testaments by Margaret Atwood), so I cannot rule out the possibility that a lightweight judging panel might choose to reward this timid debut. But in my opinion, books that contain sentences like “the tippy tops of the mountains came into view” are not worthy of literary prizes.
Ok, let’s get the elephant-in-the-room out of the way first: This is not a story I enjoyed in terms of it being a ‘good’ read, or even as an especially engaging tale, indeed if it wasn’t for the philosophical questions it raises, I might not of stuck with it at all. However, it does make one think…and, it does that very well.
Opening during a long-term experiment to measure human impact on a wilderness environment, the story’s focus is Bea and her young daughter, Agnes. Ranging over a period of around twenty years, the relationship between mother and child constantly shifts between nurturing and destructive. The reader is left in little doubt of their love for each other, but there is an increasing sense of distrust that constantly bubbles to the surface. That their interactions oscillate between showing innate need for each other, and unreserved rejection, makes for an often raw and uneasy read.
The wilderness features in much of the story, and there are some stunning descriptions of the interplay between people and fauna. Again, this swings from being beautiful and idealistic in some passages, to violent and disruptive in others. One thing this book never does is let the reader be too comfortable for too long; whether it’s examining the essence of humanity, motherhood, or freedom, it constantly employs brutal imagery to do so.
There were some aspects that didn’t perhaps work so well: Not least the ubiquitous (but totally unconvincing) rangers, and the tendency to portray humans as somehow separate from the environment rather than an integral part of it. Neither was I persuaded to mourn the loss of this wilderness – under Cook’s penmanship, it seemed to represent just another form of captivity. Overall though, it was her continual reliance on brutality to make a point that spoilt it for me.
If this book had not been on the Booker prize list, I would not have chosen it, as it is not a genre I would normally gravitate towards. If this book had not been on the Booker prize list and I had read it, my impression may have been less negative given the expectation that comes with such a nomination. My review is definitely skewed by the label of prize nominee.
I have searched for allegory or metaphor: maybe the plight of modern day refugees or Native American displacement. Both could be applied, but if this was the author's intent, the message was probably a little too subtle.
3 stars from me, because although my expectations were not fulfilled, it is a well written story that incites reflection on the state of the modern world, it explores the relationship between mother and daughter and shows how personal survival can change what we would call civilised behaviour.