The New Wilderness wasn’t quite I was expecting. I thought it would be a hard-edged survival, woven with Station Eleven-style dystopia, but it is in fact a rather calm story, with a steady pace. Yes, it is about survival and yes, it is a dystopia, but not the sort that makes you reel in shock or puts you on the edge of your seat.
The story is an ode to nature, but more so an exploration of the mother-daughter relationship between Bea and her young daughter, Agnes, after they flee the City – an over-populated, highly polluted metropolis – to the forbidden Wilderness State – an out-of-bounds area, housing the last of the forests and desert plains.
Bea volunteers herself and 5-year old ailing Agnes to be part of a study to see whether humans can co-exist with nature. A group of 20 has been sent out into the Wilderness State and we join them a couple of years in, as they scrape by on short rations and are repeatedly reminded by Rangers that they must ‘Leave No Trace’. Whilst the community of volunteers struggles to resist the urge to settle and is forced to maintain a nomadic lifestyle, Bea and Agnes struggle with their evolving mother-daughter bond, tied together but also desperate for their independence from one another.
I feel harsh giving The New Wilderness a rating below 4 but I found it just a little bit slow in the middle sections, with a lot of the power-struggles and community development, which really became the main focus of the story, lacking flow. I desperately craved a sharper dystopian edge and more backstory to help empathise with the characters and the world they lived in, but instead was disappointed with vague allusions to the City and the rest of the world.
Overall I enjoyed this book and any nature-lovers would surely enjoy the eco-centric setting which Cook envisions wonderfully, however I wanted more pace and more drama then I got and was left feeling a little underwhelmed.
You can buy a copy of The New Wilderness from your local independent bookshop through Hive here!
This wonderful novel spans generations and combines the power of 12 startling voices to share the experiences of British women of color. Mainly set in London we hear the story of a proud black lesbian playwright, her sassy super-feminist daughter and a sexually fluid millennial, just to name a couple.
It’s Black History Month in the UK and I decided this year I should finally get round to reading some of those incredible stories that I haven’t quite made time for yet.
I can definitely see why this books is a bit love it or hate it. The story of Dexter and Em is given to us in snapshots, Starting from their meeting at uni up to their late 30s, the book oozes sexual tension, but with an increasingly dark edge which reminded me of Sally Rooney’s novels.