March Book: The Wilderness by Samantha Harvey

This month’s book review is not an intense book marathon like January and February before it. I only got through one book and I actually finished it in the first few days of April. This was partly due to not being enthralled by the book but also because I went on a Netflix binge as I renewed by subscription so I could watch all 10 series of Friends… I digress. Now to talk a bit about the book.

This book is essentially about a man’s experience of Alzheimer’s disease, which is the most common cause of dementia. You are taken on a journey through the workings of his mind as it deteriorates. The book frequently flips from different time periods in Jake’s life as he explores his memories and experiences. He was an architect and was married and had two children, a boy and a girl. He grew up in Lincolnshire to an English father and Jewish Austrian mother.

the wilderness samantha harvey book review

The book is written in third person but it very much focuses on Jake as the central character. Something which I didn’t like was that his name is hardly ever used, he is always referred to as ‘he’. This is especially confusing in scenes where there are other men and I found it grinding on me as I got further into the novel. Something about the way this book is written in general annoyed me and is one of the reasons I found it hard to motivate myself to finish it. This was my second attempt at reading this book.

My next point is a tricky one as I can see why it is done. It is that the story jumps around all over the place and is disjointed. There’s not really a plot as so many situations and events in Jake’s life are touched upon and then just left at that. So many areas of possible interest are never resolved or explained which is frustrating as a reader. I understand that this is probably done to reflect Jake’s illness and the way his mind works: frequently forgetting, going off on tangents, not getting to the point, creating things that never happened etc. The book doesn’t seem to go anywhere and if someone asked me to explain the plot all I could say was a man develops Alzheimer’s disease and the book explores some of his past and memories and he goes in the only direction Alzheimer’s can go.

Lastly, another reason I probably didn’t get into this book is that there aren’t really any likeable characters. Jake is the main one we grow to know anything about and there’s nothing I particularly liked about him. Most of the other characters are relatively undeveloped so it’s hard to grow a liking for them. Again, this underdevelopment could be to reflect Jake’s Alzheimer’s.

In conclusion, this book was not an immensely enjoyable read for me. I think it’s an interesting subject but I did not find a series of unfinished and incomplete memories, events and thoughts satisfying or entertaining as a reader. Is that bad to say, that I didn’t find a man with dementia’s story entertaining? I don’t think dementia will ever be any fun for anyone. I appreciate what this book was trying to do and that it is told from Jake’s reality, I am not ignorant to dementia and bought this book specifically because I thought it would be interesting, which I suppose in a way it was, but even so I did not finish this book with any sense of satisfaction or enlightenment.

Love Nicole xxxx

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