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The Wilderness: A Novel Hardcover – Deckle Edge, February 17, 2009

4.1 out of 5 stars 61 ratings

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Editorial Reviews


Winner of the 2009 Betty Trask Prize
Shortlisted for the Orange Prize for Fiction 2009
Longlisted for the Guardian First Book Award
Longlisted for the 2009 Man Booker Prize

“A haunting, intelligent novel, crowded with powerful characters, told in a language that is never ordinary, but always clear and elegant.”
—Tessa Hadley, author of The Master Bedroom and Sunstroke and Other Stories

“It used to be thought that Alzheimer's unspooled the brain in the precise order in which it had grown, a decline that matched, plot point for plot point, childhood development-a kind of neural Curious Case of Benjamin Button. As the English novelist Samantha Harvey suggests in The Wilderness, her brave imagining of the disease, it's less linear and more complicated. There are moments of clarity; there is the persistence of desire; there are enduing long-term memories that remain after there is no capacity to recall what was for breakfast or if there was breakfast or what the thing called breakfast is… While most books about Alzheimer's are written from the outside looking in, this one stays within the ever-narrowing parameters of Jacob's mind.., Earlier in her life, Samantha Harvey studied philosophy, and that training is felt here, where the nature of truth is as much the protagonist as Jacob Jameson himself, and Alzheimer's disease is equally villain and muse. Every life is a mystery, Harvey seems to be saying, even to the one whose life it is.”
New York Times Book Review

“In the glut of novels being published at the moment a really exciting debut is as rare as it ever was. Samantha Harvey's first novel is an extraordinary dramatization of a mind in the process of disintegration. [The Wilderness is] brilliant— read it now, before it scoops up all the prizes.”
The Times (UK)

“Moving through a rich, protean mental landscape, Jake recalls and reinvents his life's themes and passions… Using recurrent, simple images—the flash of a yellow dress, freckled eyelids—Harvey beautifully, patiently ushers Jake forward to the last flicker of recognition; the whole a stunning composition of human fragility and intensity.
The Guardian (UK)

"The Wilderness is Samantha Harvey's first novel, but it feels like a mature work, as well crafted and as cryptic—'familiar and strange in one breath'—as an ancient boat found preserved in the peat of the northern-England moors where the book is mostly set.”

“Harvey infuses the text with compassion. [The Wilderness] conveys the importance of dignity and respect for those we love, no matter what their affliction.”
Las Vegas Review-Journal

"A treat for literature lovers who appreciate complexity in their novels and aren't afraid to deal with tough topics."
Library Journal

About the Author

Born in Kent, England, in 1975, SAMANTHA HARVEY has an M.A. in philosophy and an M.A., with distinction, from the Bath Spa Creative Writing course in 2005. In addition to writing, she has traveled extensively and taught in Japan and lived in Ireland and New Zealand. She recently co-founded an environmental charity and lives in Bath, England.

Product details

  • Publisher : Nan A. Talese (February 17, 2009)
  • Language : English
  • Hardcover : 384 pages
  • ISBN-10 : 0385527632
  • ISBN-13 : 978-0385527637
  • Item Weight : 1.32 pounds
  • Dimensions : 6.03 x 1.24 x 8.54 inches
  • Customer Reviews:
    4.1 out of 5 stars 61 ratings

Customer reviews

4.1 out of 5 stars
4.1 out of 5
61 global ratings
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Reviewed in the United States on August 5, 2019
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Reviewed in the United States on August 11, 2009
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Top reviews from other countries

5.0 out of 5 stars Stunning
Reviewed in the United Kingdom on November 2, 2017
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4.0 out of 5 stars Excellent idea, well executed
Reviewed in the United Kingdom on August 25, 2011
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4.0 out of 5 stars A superb fictional exploration of living with dementia
Reviewed in the United Kingdom on July 7, 2013
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Mingo Bingo
5.0 out of 5 stars Startling, ethereal and majestic look at the unravelling of a mind
Reviewed in the United Kingdom on November 8, 2014
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Mrs. W. B. Taylor
3.0 out of 5 stars No lasting impression
Reviewed in the United Kingdom on December 22, 2012
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