Bleaker house Chasing my novel to the end of the world

Nell Stevens, 1985-

Book - 2017

"A whimsical blend of memoir and travelogue, laced with wry and indispensable writing advice, Bleaker House is a story of creative struggle that brilliantly captures the self-torture of the writing life. Twenty-seven-year-old Nell Stevens was determined to write a novel, but somehow life kept getting in the way. Then came a game-changing opportunity: she won a fellowship that let her spend three months, all expenses paid, anywhere in the world to research and write a book. Would she choose ...a glittering metropolis, a romantic village, an exotic paradise? Um, no. Nell chose Bleaker Island, a snowy, windswept pile of rock in the Falklands. There, in a guesthouse where she would be the only guest, she could finally rid herself of distractions and write her 2,500 words a day. In three months, surely she'd have a novel. And sure enough, other than sheep, penguins, paranoia, and the weather, there aren't many distractions on Bleaker. Nell gets to work on her novel--a delightful Dickensian fiction she calls Bleaker House--only to discover that an excruciatingly erratic internet connection and 1100 calories a day (as much food as she could carry in her suitcase, budgeted to the raisin) are far from ideal conditions for literary production. With deft humor, the memoir traces Nell's island days and slowly reveals details of the life and people she has left behind in pursuit of her art. They pop up in her novel, as well, and in other fictional pieces that dot the book. It seems that there is nowhere Nell can run--an island or the pages of her notebook--to escape herself. With winning honesty and wit, Nell's race to finish her book slowly emerges as an irresistible narrative in its own right"--

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BIOGRAPHY/Stevens, Nell
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Subjects
Genres
Autobiographies
Published
New York : Doubleday [2017]
Edition
First edition
Language
English
Physical Description
244 pages ; 22 cm
ISBN
9780385541558
0385541554
Main Author
Nell Stevens, 1985- (author)
Review by Booklist Reviews

This mostly memoir grapples with the messy, uncomfortable space where untested ideas meet reality. Stevens receives a three-month fellowship to write anywhere in the world, and she chooses Bleaker Island in the Falklands, in the South Atlantic, with the idea that an isolated, distraction-free environment will morph her into a focused writer. In reality, with only wind and penguins for company, she devolves into anxiety, defined by raisin counting and decreased productivity. Stevens decides her novel is a failure, yet she presents readers with a book that succeeds. Bleaker House is a chapter-by-chapter mix of travelogue, fiction, and personal essay, and all of these elements interact in satisfying ways. Knowing about the workshops and life events that shape her tales makes reading them even more compelling. Comparisons to Cheryl Strayed's Wild (2012) are inevitable, as both books present women on solitary journeys that test their physical endurance, and from which they emerge transformed as people and writers. Stevens does not dive as guts deep as Strayed, but like so many before, she travels around the world to locate herself. Copyright 2017 Booklist Reviews.

Review by Library Journal Reviews

Memoir, travelog, writer's lament, Stevens's book is a lot of things—a glimpse at an author's process, a rumination on loneliness vs. solitude, the consequence of a seemingly arbitrary choice (take a map, pick a place), and what happens when you try to survive on powdered foods and Ferrero Rocher for an extended period of time. Eat, Pray, Love this is not, though that does make an amusing cameo. Stevens isn't out to find herself; she's out to find her novel. She wants to thrive on extreme discipline and no distractions and travels to Bleaker Island in the Falklands to work. What happens in between is the story of creating this volume. In a curious, experimental blend of fiction, memoir, and story, this book takes the reader on an unexpected journey. You expect to discover a novel at the end, but instead you unearth a voice that is as unique as the rugged little island of Bleaker. VERDICT A treat to read, this book is definitely a genre bender, perfect for readers of literary fiction, short story collections, and/or creative writing memoirs.—Gricel Dominguez, Florida International Univ. Lib. Copyright 2017 Library Journal.

Review by Publisher Summary 1

"A whimsical blend of memoir and travelogue, laced with wry and indispensable writing advice, Bleaker House is a story of creative struggle that brilliantly captures the self-torture of the writing life. Twenty-seven-year-old Nell Stevens was determined to write a novel, but somehow life kept getting in the way. Then came a game-changing opportunity: she won a fellowship that let her spend three months, all expenses paid, anywhere in the world to research and write a book. Would she choose a glittering metropolis, a romantic village, an exotic paradise? Um, no. Nell chose Bleaker Island, a snowy, windswept pile of rock in the Falklands. There, in a guesthouse where she would be the only guest, she could finally rid herself of distractions and write her 2,500 words a day. In three months, surely she'd have a novel. And sure enough, other than sheep, penguins, paranoia, and the weather, there aren't many distractions on Bleaker. Nell gets to work on her novel--a delightful Dickensian fiction she calls Bleaker House--only to discover that an excruciatingly erratic internet connection and 1100 calories a day (as much food as she could carry in her suitcase, budgeted to the raisin) are far from ideal conditions for literary production. With deft humor, the memoir traces Nell's island days and slowly reveals details of the life and people she has left behind in pursuit of her art. They pop up in her novel, as well, and in other fictional pieces that dot the book. It seems that there is nowhere Nell can run--anisland or the pages of her notebook--to escape herself. With winning honesty and wit, Nell's race to finish her book slowly emerges as an irresistible narrative in its own right"--

Review by Publisher Summary 2

Recounts the author's three months spent in isolation on a snowy island in the Falklands writing a novel and working through unexpected challenges while ruminating on the events and people she left behind.

Review by Publisher Summary 3

Winning a fellowship that will enable her to step away from her distracting life and write the novel she has always aspired to complete, Nell spends three months on a snowy Falklands island and works through unexpected challenges while ruminating on the events and people who she left behind.

Review by Publisher Summary 4

A girl, a laptop, and a waddle of penguins. In this witty and genre-defying memoir, a young writer can travel anywhere she wants to finally finish her novel—and ends up on a frozen island at the bottom of the world.  Twenty-seven-year-old Nell Stevens was determined to write a novel, but life kept getting in the way. Then came a game-changing opportunity: she won a fellowship that would let her live, all expenses paid, anywhere in the world to research and write a book. Would she choose a glittering metropolis, a romantic village, an exotic paradise? Not exactly. Nell picked Bleaker Island, a snowy, windswept pile of rock in the Falklands. There, in a guesthouse where she would be the only guest, she could finally rid herself of distractions and write. Before the spring thaw, surely she’d have a novel.     And indeed, other than sheep, penguins, paranoia, and the weather, there aren’t many distractions on Bleaker. Nell gets to work on a charming Dickensian fiction she calls Bleaker House—only to discover that total isolation and 1,085 calories a day are far from ideal conditions for literary production. With deft humor, the memoir traces Nell’s island days and slowly reveals details of the life and people she has left behind in pursuit of her writing. They pop up in her novel, too, and in other fictional pieces that dot the book. It seems that there is nowhere Nell can run—an island or the pages of her notebook—to escape the big questions of love, art and ambition.      Terrifically smart, full of wry writing advice, and with a clever puzzle of a structure, Bleaker House marks the arrival of a fresh new voice in creative nonfiction.