As the disease takes hold of him, Jake struggles to hold on to his personal story, to his memories and identity, but they are becoming increasingly elusive and unreliable. What happened to his daughter? Is she alive, or long dead? And why exactly is his son in prison? What went so wrong in his life? There was a cherry tree once, and a yellow dress, but what exactly do they mean?
As Jake, assisted by 'poor Eleanor', a childhood friend with whom for some unfathomable reason he seems to be sleeping, fights the inevitable dying of the light, the key events of his life keep changing as he tries to grasp them, and what until recently seemed solid fact is melting into surreal dreams or nightmarish imaginings.
Is there anything he'll be able to salvage from the wreckage? Beauty, perhaps? The memory of love? Or nothing at all? From the first sentence to the last, The Wilderness holds us in its grip. This is writing of extraordinary power and beauty.
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©2009 Samantha Harvey; (P)2009 WF Howes Ltd
"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)
"A treat for literature lovers who appreciate complexity in their novels and aren't afraid to deal with tough topics." (Library Journal)
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 got lost, actually added to the whole confused air of the novel. When Jake was trying to recall the word for something, if I couldn't find the word immediately, the narrator continued without me, leaving me feeling as if I was suffering the same loss.
Some of Jake's memories are facts, some, we learn towards the end, are false memories.
In his time he had been a capable architect, he had a son, Henry, now in the prison that he, himself had designed. His wife, Helen, has died and there is a daughter, Alice. He is currently married to his childhood friend, Eleanor, who "has waited 30 years for him, only to find he is lost" (quoted from memory as I do not have a written version.)
There are some clever themes that keep reappearing, the colour yellow, the sound of a gun shot and various references to cherry trees, cherries and falling blossom. Unfortunately my admiration for clever writing is not sufficient when I find a book too long and drawn out and am considering abandoning it as I stubbornly keep listening.
More fool me!
Other books I have read with a theme of Atzheimer's:
Still Alice by Lisa Genova (5 stars)
Memory Cage by Ruth Eastham (5 stars)
An interesting book the book is about a man who is loosing his memory slowly as you hear the story but it is hard to remember whathasbeentold in the book, whatis true andwhatmight have been made up, reading the book gives you some idea what it must be like to live with memory loss.
"Beautifully written and narrated"
Tackling the unusual subject of a man's battle with Alzheimer's in a sympathetic and believable way, this is a complex book that requires maximum concentration throughout, but in the end it is more than worth it. The topic is lovingly handled, Barrett's narration is the most convincing I have heard, and the 'reader' can not help but find their perceptions of this debilitating disease have been challenged as a result.
If you're after thrill-a-minute action and suspense, this story is not for you. If you are after something thought-provoking, moving and challenging, this book is worth every cent. It is the kind of book I may well play all over again, just to go back through the early chapters from a position of having heard the whole story, as I am sure there would be much that I missed. Not many books make you want to do that.
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