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BLEAKER HOUSE

CHASING MY NOVEL TO THE END OF THE WORLD

This engaging debut fulfills her confident prediction.

On a remote island, a young writer assesses her talents and her dreams.

Completing an MFA degree at Boston University, Stevens was awarded a three-month fellowship to travel anywhere in the world to work on the novel she was determined to write. Deciding that she needed complete solitude, she chose to travel 9,000 miles from her native England to the Falkland Islands—in winter. In her delightful literary debut, Stevens chronicles life among the penguins and caracara birds on Bleaker Island, population 3, where for weeks she was the only inhabitant. “I wanted to find out everything about myself,” she confesses, “not just the profound and often boring things to do with childhood memories and self-respect, but also the practical stuff, like what my first book will actually be about.” But that revelation eluded her as she concocted a trite narrative about a young man who travels to the Falklands in search of a father he thought was dead. Stevens intersperses chapters from the novel-in-progress and, as she readily admits, it is indeed dreadful. The memoir, though, is fresh and spirited. She spent several weeks in Stanley, the Falklands’ capital, a desolate city with “no cinema, no theatre, no evening entertainment” except for seven pubs. “By ten o’clock most nights, everyone is exceedingly drunk,” she learned. And often they drive their Land Rovers into one of many deep drainage ditches. Stevens was eyed with distrust by residents who believe “that foreigners who come in and ask questions are bad news.” Journalists and Argentinians are especially suspect. The owners of the guesthouse on Bleaker Island were welcoming, though, and Stevens learned how to spin yarn from sheep’s wool, herd pregnant cattle, and find her way home in a fierce storm. Lively flashbacks round out a memoir that might have been too tightly focused on desolation and failure. At the end of her island experience, she reports happily, “I have freed myself of a bad book. I will write a better one now.”

This engaging debut fulfills her confident prediction.

Pub Date: March 14, 2017

ISBN: 978-0-385-54155-8

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Doubleday

Review Posted Online: Dec. 13, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2017

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NIGHT

The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the...

Elie Wiesel spent his early years in a small Transylvanian town as one of four children. 

He was the only one of the family to survive what Francois Maurois, in his introduction, calls the "human holocaust" of the persecution of the Jews, which began with the restrictions, the singularization of the yellow star, the enclosure within the ghetto, and went on to the mass deportations to the ovens of Auschwitz and Buchenwald. There are unforgettable and horrifying scenes here in this spare and sombre memoir of this experience of the hanging of a child, of his first farewell with his father who leaves him an inheritance of a knife and a spoon, and of his last goodbye at Buchenwald his father's corpse is already cold let alone the long months of survival under unconscionable conditions. 

The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the sphere of suffering shared, and in this case extended to the death march itself, there is no spiritual or emotional legacy here to offset any reader reluctance.

Pub Date: Jan. 16, 2006

ISBN: 0374500010

Page Count: 120

Publisher: Hill & Wang

Review Posted Online: Oct. 7, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2006

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INTO THE WILD

A wonderful page-turner written with humility, immediacy, and great style. Nothing came cheap and easy to McCandless, nor...

The excruciating story of a young man on a quest for knowledge and experience, a search that eventually cooked his goose, told with the flair of a seasoned investigative reporter by Outside magazine contributing editor Krakauer (Eiger Dreams, 1990). 

Chris McCandless loved the road, the unadorned life, the Tolstoyan call to asceticism. After graduating college, he took off on another of his long destinationless journeys, this time cutting all contact with his family and changing his name to Alex Supertramp. He was a gent of strong opinions, and he shared them with those he met: "You must lose your inclination for monotonous security and adopt a helter-skelter style of life''; "be nomadic.'' Ultimately, in 1992, his terms got him into mortal trouble when he ran up against something—the Alaskan wild—that didn't give a hoot about Supertramp's worldview; his decomposed corpse was found 16 weeks after he entered the bush. Many people felt McCandless was just a hubris-laden jerk with a death wish (he had discarded his map before going into the wild and brought no food but a bag of rice). Krakauer thought not. Admitting an interest that bordered on obsession, he dug deep into McCandless's life. He found a willful, reckless, moody boyhood; an ugly little secret that sundered the relationship between father and son; a moral absolutism that agitated the young man's soul and drove him to extremes; but he was no more a nutcase than other pilgrims. Writing in supple, electric prose, Krakauer tries to make sense of McCandless (while scrupulously avoiding off-the-rack psychoanalysis): his risky behavior and the rites associated with it, his asceticism, his love of wide open spaces, the flights of his soul.

A wonderful page-turner written with humility, immediacy, and great style. Nothing came cheap and easy to McCandless, nor will it to readers of Krakauer's narrative. (4 maps) (First printing of 35,000; author tour)

Pub Date: Jan. 1, 1996

ISBN: 0-679-42850-X

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Villard

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 1995

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