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Summary

Shortlisted for 2020 Booker Prize

From an acclaimed Guardian First Book Award finalist comes a debut novel.

Bea's five-year-old daughter, Agnes, is slowly wasting away. The smog and pollution of the overdeveloped, overpopulated metropolis they call home is ravaging her lungs. Bea knows she cannot stay in the City, but there is only one alternative: the Wilderness State. Mankind has never been allowed to venture into this vast expanse of untamed land. Until now. 

Bea and Agnes join 18 other volunteers who agree to take part in a radical experiment. They must slowly learn how to live in the unpredictable, often dangerous Wilderness, leaving no trace on their surroundings in their quest to survive. But as Agnes embraces this new existence, Bea realises that saving her daughter's life might mean losing her in ways she hadn't foreseen.

At once a blazing lament of our contempt for nature and a deeply humane portrayal of motherhood, The New Wilderness is an extraordinary, urgent novel from a celebrated new literary voice. 

©2020 Diane Cook (P)2020 W F Howes

Critic reviews

“Cook's is a fresh and vivid voice; it's unsurprising the likes of Miranda July and Roxane Gay are fans.” (Observer)

The New Wilderness is a virtuosic debut, brutal and beautiful in equal measure.” (Emily St. John Mandel, author of Station Eleven and The Glass Hotel)

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What listeners say about The New Wilderness

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  • Overall
    3 out of 5 stars
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    4 out of 5 stars
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    2 out of 5 stars

Unbelievably overrated

Hard to comprehend how this made the Booker Shortlist when Mantel's The Mirror and the Light didn't. Although why the person who spawned Jack Reacher should be one of the judges makes a mockery of what this literary prize is supposed to be.
Anyway - I digress. The New Wilderness is full of implausible characters, hazily sketched ideas, and even lazier plot holes. I can only assume it's made the list because of its timely subject. We don't learn why particular things do or don't happen. But not in a deliberate, skilful way - ie to fill us with unease and existential dread - just in a way that leaves us suspecting Cook either couldn't be bothered to explain them, or worse, didn't even realise she needed to.
For instance, without giving too much away one deeply irritating point is the fact the rangers keep popping up like Mr Ben at various points to rail at the group of people who have been allowed into the wilderness. They despise the group, but it doesn't appear that the rangers are protective of nature per se; just that they like to use nature as a metaphorical stick to beat these hapless people with. I gave up trying to fathom why when I gave up trying to care.
The narrator made it possible for me to stick with it till the end, but that's the best I can say for it. Far from the thought-provoking, intelligent read I was expecting, it left me with a horrible sense that this is a book JK Rowling would like to have written.

12 people found this helpful

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    4 out of 5 stars
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    4 out of 5 stars

Brilliant research

This story is set in such a well-imaguned world that it is a compelling read just for that.

Its denouement, however, is disappointing. Still, fine, though.

2 people found this helpful

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    5 out of 5 stars
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Stunning

Dystopia for grown ups, no cliches, no rugged ex army heroes who happen to have an off grid homestead with a lifetime supply of wood, fuel, solar energy, snow mobils , testosterone, chiselled chin and greying temples, no wispy blonde bombshell who despite having survived an EMP strike, a Zombie Apocalypse and a Solar Flare, still maintained her sharp cheekbones and flawless skin , no leg hair, no Body odour.

This book is scary as it is within the grasp of reality, and depicts the true need for human beings to be led by a leader despite sacrificing who they are, and what previous morals they held.

2 people found this helpful

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Good storyline...

and I enjoyed it until the end, which I think let it down. The research into writing this book is very good though. The narrator was good.

1 person found this helpful

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    3 out of 5 stars
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    3 out of 5 stars

Strong start

Didn't wrap up like I felt it should, bit abrupt ending. Worth a listen though :)

1 person found this helpful

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    2 out of 5 stars
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Difficult to think this was Booker shortlisted

Concept of the story could have been really interesting. However it is poorly told. The dialogue between characters is laughably awful at times. The author makes no attempt at detail dialogue or detail nuance in the plot lines. It’s like listening/watching a poor quality action film - though little action. It lacks credibility in the story - the thoughts of a teenager about their younger years, and their current situation is just not believable at times. Time becomes confused which is reasonable considering these people’s lives but sometimes the author seems confused about what she’s relating. I persisted as I thought much would be revealed and as I say it could have been an intriguing tale. But not so

1 person found this helpful

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    2 out of 5 stars
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Unsatisfactory

You get frustratingly few answers for plot questions in this book.
You never find out why people are originally sent to the wilderness.
Throughout the book there is a somewhat post apocalyptic air and you expect something bad to happen but nothing ever comes of us. A very disappointing listen. Would not recommend

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Environmental dystopia

The ballad of Beatrice and Agnes is set in a mythic and dystopia future, which has certain contradictions, with much unexplained. The story of a girl growing to maturity wild and free, but under threat is well written and narrated. Estrangement from family and from nature are at the heart, and the killing of what we love.

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Unique

I found this a real adventure listen, reality though didn't dwell on the romantic notion of living in wilderness in the future. Great narration too.

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Did it have to end?

Read impeccably by Stacey Glemboski, this is a gripping story that is deeply emotional and deeply unsentimental. A very alarming look at a future dystopia.