Twenty-seven-year-old Nell Stevens was determined to write a novel, but life kept getting in the way. Read more...
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.
- ISBN-13: 9780385541558
- ISBN-10: 0385541554
- Publisher: Doubleday Books
- Publish Date: March 2017
- Page Count: 256
- Dimensions: 8.4 x 5.7 x 1.1 inches
- Shipping Weight: 1 pounds
Making something out of nothing
Writing is hard. Just ask Nell Stevens, a 27-year-old British graduate student working toward her MFA in fiction at Boston University. As part of the program, she receives a three-month fellowship to travel anywhere in the world to practice her craft, and to the surprise of her advisor, she chooses the sparsely populated Falkland Islands. Located in the South Atlantic Ocean near Antarctica, the frigid islands offer Stevens the isolation she needs to concentrate on her Dickensian novel—which, like her life, features a young English academic who travels to the Falklands. Stevens arrives at Bleaker Island, a small world of rock, sea and sky, and promptly puts on an extra pair of socks.
In Bleaker House: Chasing My Novel to the End of the World, Stevens offers a quirky and engaging account of what happens next. Surrounded by a colony of penguins, a beached whale carcass, caracara birds and a herd of sheep, she spends hours writing in a sunroom so thoroughly transparent she feels part of the weather. She plans her day down to the number of almonds she can eat each morning and the number of words she’ll produce each afternoon.
Despite her rigid plan, the act of writing proves as unpredictable and brutal as the weather. Her isolation compels her to ponder the process of composing. How does one make something beautiful from a string of words and longings, from memories and imaginings and, more practically, from computers and books and piles of almonds? Eventually departing the island with a book—though one very different from her original plan—Nell offers a captivating portrait of the creative life.