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 reconciltion of life as he remembers it as he sits on a plane overlooking his country. It is written in a compassionate and literary style. Nothing is as it seems. The disease highlights loss and confusion in life.
“In amongst a sea of events and names that have been forgotten, they are a number of episodes that float with striking buoyancy to the surface”.
As his Alzheimers progresses his memory and his identity goes. It is narrated in the third person and its prose is lyrical. This book is the wilderness of a confused mind attacked by Alzheimers Disease. The story moves back and forth as Jake goes through memories. Fact and fiction and past and present blur in his stories.
” I feel like all my wires are been unplugged one by one. Not even in order just one by one.”
This is heartwrenching and a thought provoking read. It reads like a family drama and we slowly gather the jigsaw pieces together to discover the true story. This book conveys the signifance of our memory and the cruelty of old age. We can outlive our bodies and minds. Anything is plausible and nothing is certain. The themes that run through the novel are: loss, conflict, marriage, love and religion.