The Wilderness, By Samantha Harvey

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The Independent Culture

Samantha Harvey is an extremely gifted writer, but, if anything, her debut novel is a little too carefully written; each word a little too thought over.

It's a thoughtful story, that is true. Jake has Alzheimer's. His religious wife, Helen, died some time before of a stroke, and their son has had trouble coping ever since, to the extent that he is an alcoholic and currently serving time in prison for robbery. Jake has fallen back on the love of Eleanor, who had waited 30 years for him only to find that his Alzheimer's makes it increasingly hard for him to recognise her, and that "now I've got you, and you're gone". Jake has not lived a perfect life. although he has tried to become politicised (against his Jewish mother's wishes) and has tried to make a difference to society in his job as an architect. But his past limitations become clearer to him as his mind recedes.

This story fairly drips with the poignancy of events, not forgotten, but lost forever; and of love that was compromised by affairs and secrecy: did Helen, Jake wonders, have an affair, as he did? It is ponderous in places, but also insightful.