Today, I am back with another book on the Booker Prize long-list and this time it’s The New Wilderness by Diane Cook.
Today, it’s another book on the Booker Prize! This time, it’s all about The New Wilderness by Diane Cook. But first, what is it about exactly? Here is the synopsis:
Bea’s five-year-old daughter, Agnes, is slowly wasting away. The smog and pollution of the overdeveloped, overpopulated metropolis they call home is ravaging her lungs. Bea knows she cannot stay in the City, but there is only one alternative: The Wilderness State. Mankind has never been allowed to venture into this vast expanse of untamed land. Until now.
Bea and Agnes join eighteen other volunteers who agree to take part in a radical experiment. They must slowly learn how to live in the unpredictable, often dangerous Wilderness, leaving no trace on their surroundings in their quest to survive. But as Agnes embraces this new existence, Bea realises that saving her daughter’s life might mean losing her in ways she hadn’t foreseen.
At once a blazing lament of our contempt for nature and a deeply humane portrayal of motherhood, The New Wilderness is an extraordinary, urgent novel from a celebrated new literary voice.
I’ve only got two on the long-list left to finish and I’ve been a bit in a rut in terms of the books as some of them didn’t intrigue me but I thought The New Wilderness would be a way out of that rut… but did it work?
At the start, I really enjoyed this book. I loved how she describes nature and the landscape and creates an atmosphere within the book. For me, the best thing about this book is the central relationship between mother and daughter that runs throughout the novel. I thought Cook wrote that beautifully and I loved how she explored motherhood in general, too. This seems to be a recurring theme that is running throughout the books on the long-list – a relationship between a parent/child, especially mothers.
“There used to be a cultural belief, in an era before she was born, that having close ties to nature made one a better person. And when they arrived in the Wilderness, they imagined living there might make them more sympathetic, better, more attuned people. But they came to understand there’d been a great misunderstanding about what better meant.”
This is an interesting concept for a novel – almost dystopian or utopian in nature. But I think this is where I lost interest. For me, the book is perhaps a little too long. I just got a bit bored, to be honest and felt there were too many characters without a reason for being there. It felt like too many ideas in one go. But, saying that, I did enjoy reading it and more than others on the list.
I think Diane Cook is a brilliant writer – especially about nature, the landscape and the relationship between mother and daughter and motherhood in general but there were too many ideas at times that blurred it all and I feel it would have been beneficial to have more characterisation from Bea and Agnes.
An enjoyable read but I don’t think it will be a book I will go back to again and again in the future.
Have you read The New Wilderness? What did you think? Let me know in the comments!