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The Wilderness

3.36 of 5 stars 3.36  ·  rating details  ·  454 ratings  ·  100 reviews
An Orange Prize Finalist
A Man Booker Prize Nominee
Winner of the 2009 Betty Trask Prize
A Guardian First Book Award Nominee

Jake is in the tailspin of old age. His wife has passed away, his son is in prison, and now he is about to lose his past to Alzheimer’s. As the disease takes hold of him, Jake’s memories become increasingly unreliable. What happened to his daughter? Is
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Paperback, 384 pages
Published April 6th 2010 by Anchor (first published 2008)
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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 1,512)
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Beatrice
I borrowed this book from the v-city public library (and took it on my kayaking trip, where it got wet and moldy) mostly hoping for a dim intellectual insight into my grandmother's disease, which I hardly understand. I did not have high hopes or expectations but this ended up being one of the most haunting, lovely, and unforgettable books I've read in a long time. I loved it.

Harvey's story (marked, in equal parts it seems to me, by her training in both creative writing and philosophy) is about J
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Jessica
Of all the 2009 Booker nominees I've read, this has blown everything else out of the water. I've become addicted to this book in the few days we've spent together, sneaking off to read it at every spare moment, completely caught up in Jake's deterioration and recollection. The signposts that Harvey deposits throughout the book performed little cinches on my heart every time I encountered one.

It's absolutely breathtaking what the author has done in (de)constructing the world of the Alzheimer's pa
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Judy
But oh no, not an easy read. I'm used to racing through books, but who can race through the tangled wilderness of a deteriorating mind. And who would even want to skim quickly through the rich landscape of imagery created by this most-talented author...

Ms. Harvey deftly flips back and forth through time and memories as Jake's mind and world erodes. If we are lost, consider poor Jake-- or perhaps your mother, or your father-in-law, or your great-aunt Charlotte --as they wander through the tangled
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Daniel
The Wilderness is a wonderfully rich and heartbreaking debut novel in which Samantha Harvey takes up the formidable challenge of taking readers inside the deteriorating mind of a man afflicted with Alzheimer's disease. Sixty-five-year-old architect Jake Jameson desperately tries to make sense of a life imbued with joy, sadness, and regret, even as the memories that define him and his life begin to morph and slip free of his mental grasp. He has faced his fair share of tragedies: his wife died at ...more
Tracy
This is the first book I've read of my 2009 Booker longlist marathon (if the third on the list) and it's placed the bar pretty high.


The protagonist is a man suffering from Alzheimer's and remembering his life - but the bits and pieces that don't always mesh, he's never sure of the timeline and sometimes he's not sure of who he's remembering and scenes come back to him or fade away over and over.

And it's about his relationship with his mother, with his son, with the women he's loved or not love
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Becky
Maybe if I didn't have anything else to read I would have finished this book. It was just too random and sad - but I don't know how a book about Alzheimer's can't be random and sad. I guess I should have picked up a different book and saved this heavier read for another time.


read until page 161
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"One day, he supposes, he will not even remember that he does not know or remember..."
"She told him if he remembered something and he c
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Eric
I don't think Samantha Harvey goes too far to identify her protagonist's thoughts, because if she did he would be far too incoherent (see The Sound and Fury) for this novel to be pleasurable reading. That's not to say this story of the fractured four years in which his Alzheimer's condition worsens is a fun read. At least it is possible to follow his revisionist memory, but through these re-worked memories we do sense the devastation.
Paul
I have some trouble reviewing this because I meet people who have dementia most of the time in my work.
It is the story of Jake, an architect, who has Alzheimer's type dementia. The novel cuts between past and present and is very poignant. The story of Jake's family; his mother, wife and son unfolds. At the start of the book Jake has dementia at a fairly early stage; his wife died aged 53, his son is in a prison he designed. His history is not clear because as the book goes on it becomes clear th
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Author Annette Dunlea
The Wilderness by Samantha Harvey (Book Review)
The Wilderness by Samantha Harvey is now in paperback by Jonathan Cape. It has been short listed for the Orange Prize. It is the author’s debut novel. She has a masters degree in philosphy and has taught English, so I am now suprised it is literary and truthfull. It has been brillantly researched. This is a psychological fiction novel about Jake a 60 year old architect who has short term memory loss but his long term memory is ok. The story is his r
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Jeruen
As I have been mentioning from time to time whenever I review a book, I rarely put a book down simply because the beginning part of the book seems to be bad. I usually finish the book all the way to the end hoping that it would turn good as I go along. And this time around, I am glad that I did that for this book.

So, what is this book about? This book tells the tale of Jacob Jameson, an architect, with two kids, a wife, a mistress, and an Alzheimer’s disease patient. The book starts with an unre
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SilverRaindrops
"The Wilderness" is not the book for you if you enjoy tight plotting or fast-paced action. Much like "The Bee-Loud Glade" it offers a 300-pages-long momentary glance into a unique mind on the outskirts of "normal" society.

Jake's struggles with Alzheimer make for an odd read. There are times when the narrator follows the conversations happening around him or describes Jake's experiences in astounding clarity - only for him to open his mouth and say something incomprehensible. Once you get used to
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David Grieve
The story of a man looking back on his life as he slowly deteriorates as a result of Alzheimer's. The description of his confusion as he gets worse is very good and you get a real feel of his confusion. Unfortunately the flashbacks which are not linear are slightly confusing and frankly not terribly interesting. It doesn't help matters when he starts misremembering events. None of the characters are particularly sympathetic or memorable so all in all I was quite glad to get to the end.
Mary
This proves I will read anything. Its about a man who has it all, then loses it all,literally. Its too wordy and digresses, leaving the whole story unresolved. I guess thats what a book about Alzeimers might be, remind me never to get it (the disease). It might have been better if written in the voice of the woman who loved him
Jake Reynolds
A beautiful, coruscating piece of literature that is also - unbelievably - a debut novel. Focusing on retired architect Jake Jameson and his battle with Alzheimer's disease, Harvey's prose is intelligent, touching and elegantly structured, so that you're gripped throughout. The fact that if you described the plot (which seems too simple a word) to a friend they wouldn't think of the word 'gripping' makes this even more of an achievement.

This novel was shortlisted for the Booker Prize and was un
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Seth
Wow. Super heavy and well crafted, dealing nicely with notions of the construction of identity and character through a shifting set of inconsistent memories of the main character who has Alzheimer's.
Laura Seuschek
I walked away with a different perspective on life after reading this.
DubaiReader
Memories, truths, confusion?

It is difficult to review and grade this book, as I can see that it is cleverly constructed and perfectly illustrates the gradual demise and sense of confusion as Jake loses himself to dementia. On the other hand, it was very slow and I heaved a sigh of relief when I finally got to the end.

I was listening to an unabridged audiobook, somewhat tediously read, in a rather monotone drone. However, the fact that it was audio, and therefore much harder to backtrack when I g
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Alicia
Jake Jameson has trouble finding himself, trouble locating himself in moments and places. The retired architect stutter-steps through his days, not knowing how he got from the top of the stairs to the bottom, or what point he's been arguing so forcefully. But, "in amongst a sea of events and names that have been forgotten, there are a number of episodes that float with striking buoyancy to the surface." These episodes are the stories around which Samantha Harvey's "The Wilderness" is built.

Jake'
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Nancy
Subjective as memory is, when we begin to lose vast chunks of it, we become unreliable as narrators of our own lives, and even those memories that are etched on our brains become suspect. Harvey's narrator, Jake Jameson, a retired architect, is suffering from Alzheimer's disease. The book meanders, as his mind does, back and forth through the years and experiences of his life, exploring how we create and recreate ourselves over time, and how when memory starts to go, others are free to challenge ...more
Frank Parker
What is the truth about what happened in the past? Can we ever know? There have been many experiments in which a group of witnesses to the same event have been asked to recount what they saw. It is rare for such recollections ever to be complete or in complete agreement. When we recall events from our own past, how certain can we be that what we remember is how it really was? I know that when my wife and I engage in those “do you remember when ...” conversations her perception is usually differe ...more
Marion Katrina
A touching insight into the wilderness of a deteriorating mind, Samantha Harvey's debut novel is both brave and beautiful in its depiction of Alzheimer's disease. The theme of memory is weaved with a subtle complexity into Jake's fragmented narrative, reappearing as evolving motifs which bear greater meaning and significance as the incongruent pieces of an infinite and never ending puzzle are forced together. A cherry tree, varying shades of yellow, battenberg cake; events, people and objects bl ...more
Hattie
The Wilderness by Samantha Harvey is a book mainly about a man named Jacob. All the other characters are family, friends or business associates of Jacob. Sadly, Jacob is living the rest of his days on earth with Alzheimer's Disease. In my eyes, Samantha Harvey's book is all about memory. Before Jake lost the ability to remember his everyday life he worked as an architect. His own hands designed the prison in which his son lives out his days as a prisoner. Oddly, Henry and Jacob are both prisoner ...more
Jen
For Jacob Jameson, life has become strange and confusing. His brain is failing him, his ability to recognise his loved ones is slipping away from him, and his memories constantly reshape and rearrange themselves within his consciousness. Jacob has Alzheimer�s disease.[return][return]This was a touching, enthralling story, and yet it wasn�t really a story at all. It avoided the possible dangers of tangling itself into dreadful knots, or maintaining a clinical distance. I felt like I shouldn�t be ...more
Marc Nash
Wilderness sees a man casting back, or trying to cast back on his life, impeded by his descent into dementia. Fractured memories slip away, as he tries to glue them back together again. There is a hint of narrative being subverted, as memories are reconstituted but differing from their previous airing. But this is only lightly offered throughout as a framing mechanism. Some of the writing is ravishingly beautiful, to match its bleak marshland of Lincolnshire where the novel is set. "her body los ...more
Jim Elkins
There is a scene early in this novel in which a man's mother gives him an old Bible as a gift. [return][return]"'It belonged to my parents,' she said. 'Why don't you have it now, now that you're married to a religious woman?'" the mother asks. "'It's my gift to you both, maybe a wedding gift since you just ran away and married in secret.'"[return][return]This is a typically bald moment. Big things come spurting out here without any warning. [return][return]"He nodded, a little underwhelmed by th ...more
mark
I couldn't keep reading, it wasn't bad but tedious. Just on and on about the inner mental workings and musings of a successful architect with Alzheimer's. What I struggled most with is this: How does the author know what she's writing about? A person whose memory is shot can't accurately tell you what that is like. There's no way of knowing what that experience is like except speculation. It was a confusing story -- hard to decipher what was what, and who was who. The author had a backwards way ...more
Marleen
My rating should be 3.5 stars, which seems to be the average rating for this book at the moment I'm writing this review.

This is the story of a man called Jacob or Jake. When we first join him he is in a small plan. His son, Henry, has given him a flight over the land where he lives as a birthday present. From the sky he sees the prison he designed where Henry is incarcerated at the time. Jacob’s thoughts aren’t completely coherent and there are a lot of things he is not entirely sure about.
It so
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Amanda
While this book will never make by favorite all-time list, I found it a very interesting read, especially since I am of an age with elderly parents and not so far from having to confront some of the issues it raises.

Jake, the protagonist, has Alzheimer's disease and the book alternates between the real events in Jake's past and present and his perception of them. It is an interesting construct that brings into focus how our perceptions of events change and the role of memory in our sense of sel
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Frances
One of the most tedious and confusing books I have ever read. I gave up halfway through - the only book I have ever not completed.
The narrative jumps around and often I found it extremely hard to understand what was actually happening. When I did, however, it seemed interesting and the concept of the book had promise, but it just failed to deliver. It should have been good, but it just wasn't.
Maybe one day I'll try again with this, but for now I think I'd rather spend my time reading books I act
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Eliza
Jacob, a widowed architect, is slowly losing his memory due to Alzheimer's, and this story manages to portray his struggle to keep hold of his life while also showing pictures of that life. The unreliability of the narrator is, in many ways, the point of the story: not only is he forgetting, but what he remembers is always, of course, subjective, so the whole question of "what really happened" is rendered moot by the realization that whatever actually happened is only in his head anyway--memory ...more
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Samantha Harvey has completed postgraduate courses in philosophy and in Creative Writing. In addition to writing, she has traveled extensively and taught in Japan and has lived in Ireland and New Zealand. She recently co-founded an environmental charity and lives in Bath, England.

Her first novel, The Wilderness, was shortlisted for the Orange Prize for Fiction 2009, longlisted for the 2009 Man Boo
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“She would be afraid to fly when it came to it, and the rest of the world is not so interesting, Jacob, only different people doing the same things in a foreign language. pg. 198” 3 likes
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