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The Word for Woman is Wilderness

3.66  ·  Rating details ·  995 ratings  ·  169 reviews
Erin is 19. She's never really left England, but she has watched Bear Grylls and wonders why it's always men who get to go on all the cool wilderness adventures. So Erin sets off on a voyage into the Alaskan wilderness, a one-woman challenge to the archetype of the rugged male explorer.

As Erin's journey takes her through the Arctic Circle, across the entire breadth of the
Hardcover, 312 pages
Published February 1st 2018 by Serpent's Tail
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Average rating 3.66  · 
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Jan 13, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Abi Andrews has written a remarkably ambitious and thought provoking meditation on what it is to be a woman with strong connections to the earth, the environment and the wilderness. She develops a philosophy through the young 19 year old Erin, a brave and courageous woman, who embarks on a thrilling and enthralling adventure through the Arctic wilderness and across the US. It begins with a reflection on why it is men who are explorers and adventurers, such as Bear Grylls. She watches a Chris McC ...more
Jenny (Reading Envy)
Full disclaimer - I asked the publisher (Two Dollar Radio) for an advanced copy of this book because it fit in so perfectly with my Canada-Alaska reading goals for 2018. It doesn't come out until March 2019 in the states but has been out in the UK in 2018.

This is a novel, but is written in such a creative non-fiction style that I had to keep reminding myself that the author's name is Abi and that this is a fictional account. There are charts, maps, packing lists, and photos that all lend an incr
Paula Bardell-Hedley
Jan 05, 2018 rated it really liked it
Recommended to Paula by: NetGalley.
“Cetaceans are women's allies in the war against patriarchy because patriarchy holds the cetaceans down with us. Orcas travel in matriarchal pods. The root of the word dolphin, delphus, means womb."
Erin is a young woman with a calling. She has barely ventured beyond her home town, but she has watched Bear Grylls's survival programmes on TV. She wonders why it is that men, but never women, get to be intrepid adventurers, and decides to prove that it is possible for a lone female to voyage thr
Dear Erin,

I spent so much time with you over the past week, either reading your (fictional) words or thinking about them throughout the day, criticising some of your standpoints and being fully convinced by others. I loved the way you set out on your great journey, somewhat independent and prepared, somewhat open to whatever comes your way. Moreover, I loved accompanying you through Iceland, Greenland and Canada to Alaska and see you grow along the way. I appreciated being taken along your inter
Varsha Ravi (between.bookends)
This is a very tricky one to write a review for as my overall experience was rather conflicting. This novel is part adventure, part travel writing, part philosophical musings, part coming-of-age and rediscovery, speckled with feminist ideals, the myth and beliefs of the Native Peoples of North America and vilifying of patriarchy and it's societal repercussions. That's a handful. And it works to the advantage and disadvantage of this novel. It's far too ambitious, with too many ideas, that none o ...more
Eric Anderson
Feb 18, 2018 rated it really liked it
Sometimes it can be so difficult to separate my emotional response to a book compared to my critical response. I don't think I necessarily have to which is one of the great things about a book blog! But reading Abi Andrews' debut novel “The Word for Woman is Wilderness” I was even more aware of this dilemma because it's inspired by and about subjects I'm really interested in and sympathetic towards. It's narrated from the perspective of nineteen year old Erin who has a passionate interest in the ...more
Feb 28, 2018 rated it liked it
Ah, I really expected to love this. I'm a feminist and a climber! But it just didn't quite work for me.

I liked the first half- I really enjoyed Erin's interactions with other people (particularly the ones that unsettled her because she couldn't compartmentalise them), and loved the scenes of her larking around in front of the camera pretending to be a Bear Grylls-style outdoors man.

But the second half felt really baggy and was definitely in need of a good edit. The ramblings about space, etc. j
Apr 16, 2018 rated it it was ok
Sometimes profound, but more often than not profoundly irritating.
Dec 27, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2017
This is an adventure novel unlike any adventure novel you have read before (I think so, anyway: clearly, I haven’t read all of them, so I can’t be sure). There are two reasons for this. Firstly, the author, Abi Andrews, takes her female protagonist, Erin, into what has historically been a man’s world: exploring the wilderness. Secondly, the book’s mixture of fact and fiction is so well constructed that without the phrase "A Novel" in the title you could be forgiven for thinking you are reading a ...more
Part feminist adventure novel, part "non-fiction time capsule of all the important and scary things man has accomplished", The Word for Woman is Wilderness follows 19 year old Erin on her journey from England to Alaska when she decides, after watching a documentary on McCandless, to create a documentary of her own that can rival those previously told from the male perspective. Erin's experiences are intertwined with, and often overshadowed by, a relentless reflection and regurgitation of events ...more
Apr 02, 2018 rated it it was amazing
I initially hesitated between four and five stars for this novel, as I wondered whether a major part of its appeal wasn’t that I found the narrator especially sympathetic and relatable. I too have often fantasised about retreat to a cabin in the wilderness with a pile of books to think big thoughts in peace and quiet. Then I wondered why the hell that wouldn’t be a legitimate reason for enjoying a book. ‘The Word for Woman is Wilderness’ is the tale of nineteen year old Erin, who wants to follow ...more
This needed serious editing! A 19yr old girl goes backpacking to prove that girls can travel too....! Some of the feminists rants are quite funny, but most of it is patronising and annoying. Just because it’s the first time it’s occurred to you, doesn’t make it profound!! Maybe if I was a cocky 19yr old again I would appreciate it all more? But overall, it just made me groan. 🙄 DNF: 90 pages.
Lydia Barnes
Oct 14, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Give this book to that man in your life who won't shut up about Into The Wild. ...more
Jan 30, 2020 rated it it was ok
This is a difficult one to review and I'm still not entirely sure how to classify this book. From the description, I expected a tale of self discovery and account of a woman's experiences in a wilderness area. Instead, I got a book that was a strange mix of genres that frankly did not work well for me. Part of it read like a textbook full of facts - or as interpreted by the author - which were often quite dry and interrupted the flow of the story (as it was). Other paragraphs were long winded mu ...more
Elaine Mullane || At Home in Books
3.5 stars

The Word for Woman is Wilderness, the debut novel by Abi Andrews, introduces us to a teenage feminist explorer who ventures through the Arctic Circle, across the continent of America and on to Alaska, all in the name of woman.

19-year-old Erin leaves her home in England and embarks on a journey that challenges both herself and the male dominated world of exploration. Drawing on the experiences of Bear Grylls and Christopher McCandless, Erin writes her own feminist narrative on nature and
Nov 02, 2018 rated it liked it
Shelves: books-read-2018
Erin has been watching the likes of Bear Grylls having some wonderful adventures in some rugged and beautiful parts of the world for a few years now. Even though she is 19, she has hardly left the shores of England, but the call of the wild is too much to resist and why should all the men have the fun in the wild.

Her journey will take her from the comfortable life that she has known. Deciding not to fly and instead travel by sea and land, she heads off to Iceland, before heading across wild seas
Jan 24, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
A big thank you to NetGalley and Serpents Tail for providing me with an e-arc of this novel, in return for an honest review.

In The Word for Woman is Wilderness, Abi Andrews succeeds in merging fictionalised travelogue and memoir with evocative nature writing and nuanced meditations on subjects as diverse as gender, imperialism and astro physics.

The Word for Woman is Wilderness follows the thoughts and adventures of Erin, a funny and insightful 19 year old woman who opts to undertake a solitary
Aug 17, 2020 rated it really liked it
Shelves: borrowed, august-2020
Abi Andrews' novel, The Word for Woman is Wilderness, has been on my radar for quite some time, and I was so interested in the plot and somewhat unconventional structure.  The novel takes as its focus a nineteen-year-old woman named Erin, who has never strayed too far from her Midlands home.  She decides, however, to take an epic journey to the wilds of Alaska, travelling via Iceland, Greenland, and Canada to do so.

Throughout, Erin details her experiences of travelling and living in rather hosti
Aug 18, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2019
When I first started reading this book my first thought was ‘I wish I’d written this.’ At first I really liked the main character Erin, I thought she was quite reliable as a 19-year-old girl from the Midlands and how she’s interested in things; the world, politics, nature, the environment and people.

I really enjoyed the way Abi Andrews wrote the book and how was split into different sections sometimes set out as an interview/conversations, as a video diary, letters or just a general thoughts.

May 07, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Okay, I might be a little biased with this one as :
- This book is about 19-year-old Erin who, after watching (and I guess, reading ?) Into the Wild decides to make her very own journey to Alaska. I have written my master's thesis all about Krakauer's novel last year so it speaks to me.
- But, the twist is to ask whether McCandless' trip would have been different if he had been a woman. Erin leaves with the aim to film a documentary of her trip, interviewing people on their culture and on thei
Oct 03, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: women and girls who are not free to walk in this world but wish to be (all of us)
Shelves: favorites
Wow. Just... wow.

Despite my ethical frustrations in and around the three-quarter mark, Abi Andrews' artful weaving of science, politics, and philosophy--particularly from a strong angle of feminist theory--through an almost prose-poetic, quasi-stream-of-consciousness narrative was just

I don't really have an appropriate word.

Abi's writing and Erin's journey left a considerable mark on me not because the experiences Erin had were novel to me--and many of them, sadly, weren't--but because the tape
May 21, 2019 rated it it was ok
This is a very ambitious, unconventional novel. Part gap year travel diary of sorts, part coming of age/self discovery/right of passage journey, and also part philosophical, societal and mythical self-conscious musings and meditations. The Guardian review (by Sarah Moss) described the narration as both “a pleasure and an annoyance”, which I largely agree with. It doesn’t follow the rules and it certainly doesn’t read like fiction and yet I don’t believe that this narrator can be real with all of ...more
May 31, 2019 rated it really liked it
The Word for Woman is Wilderness, Abi Andrews’s debut novel, is fiction that reads like non-fiction – or perhaps this reflects our stereotypical assumptions about young women writing about young women. Nineteen-year-old Erin is hitchhiking across the far north, through Greenland, the Arctic Circle and into isolation in the wilderness. She wants to prove that ‘a woman alone in the wilderness’ can be a figure of strength rather than victimhood, in the same way as ‘a man alone in the wilderness’, o ...more
Sep 16, 2019 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction, feminism
I mean, idk. I liked the fun facts about space, but there was too much philosophizing for me. There were a lot of bite-size interesting chunks, like about whales. But I really had to push myself to finish it. It was a book I wanted to have read, but not really a book I wanted keep reading. Towards the end,
much of it started to feel like a barely intelligible screed scrawled on a fast-food napkin by a visibly disturbed stranger at a rest stop.
Apr 26, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Strange and wonderful; i led a book club on this book and had no fewer than 40 of those college-era sticky tabs throughout. Loved the science, and the language, and the sometimes blisteringly smart, sometimes perfectly age-appropriately naive philosophy and politics. I'll send a copy of this book to anyone. It's jumping into an ice-cold lake on a hot day. ...more
Jan 20, 2018 rated it really liked it
Wow... okay. I read this novel quite slowly, solely because it made me stare into space and reevaluate my life and my principles and my raisons d’être just about every... twenty pages or so. The voice created was incredibly strong... Erin was intelligent and likeable, somehow managing to be above both her readers and many of the people she met throughout the book but still grounded.
One of my favourite things about the novel was that it put some responsibility with the reader. Or that’s how I ha
Feb 17, 2018 rated it really liked it
I intend to re-read this later down the line as it was extremely poignant at times and once I have had time to digest it I feel it will make a lasting impression on my outlook on life. I haven't given it as high a rating as I think it deserves really as I found it quite difficult subject matter, so it may well be a book that I just was not ready to read currently.
I do feel like I learnt some really interesting facts/themes that I knew very little about before hand (e.g. Rachel Carson/Silent Spri
Jan 05, 2019 rated it it was ok
A disappointing read - I never really warmed to the main character, the plot was pretty flimsy and though I usually enjoy books sprinkled with interesting facts and ideas, Andrews was trying too hard and her main character just became annoying. I skipped through the last quarter of the book pretty quickly, not really caring what happened.
Ellie White
Mar 12, 2018 rated it did not like it
I found this a hard read- quite slow going but I was determined to finish. It was a bit padded and textbook like for me- too many anecdotes and unnecessary facts to show off intellect for my liking.
Mar 29, 2018 rated it really liked it
[Reread for work]
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Abi Andrews is a writer from the Midlands, England. She studied Creative Writing at Goldsmiths college in London, and her work has been published in Five Dials, Caught by the River, The Clearing, The Dark Mountain Project, Tender and other journals, along with a pamphlet published with Goldsmiths Shorts. Her debut novel The Word for Woman Is Wilderness was originally published by Serpent’s Tail in ...more

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“There are certain stereotypes that fit with giving a shit about the planet, and funnily enough these are generally in some way feminine. To be a socially acceptable environmentalist you have to be female, a child, or an eccentric (which itself entails being kind of effeminate, if you are already a man). I have come to the conclusion that this is because environmental issues are perceived to be melodramatic and melodrama belongs to the feminine because women are of course by default hysterical, ‘in touch with nature’, and so easily brought to tears by images of seagulls stuck in Coke cans in conjunction with sad piano music. Melodramatic because there are more pressing issues like terrorists and fascism and the looming employment crisis of the robot workforce, never mind the bees. Women just like animals because they are cute and summon their maternal instinct.” 0 likes
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