Bleaker House should be right in my sweet spot. A memoir by someone who goes to a place most people wouldn't want to go, and bonus--it's cold and wintry there (the Falkland Islands during the winter). I'm that odd duck who prefers inclement weather to sunny, warm weather. Give me rain! Give me snow! Give me wind!
Author Nell Stevens received a grant that would allow her to go anywhere in the world for three months to enable her to write a novel. While many students would pick New York or Paris or Sydney, Stevens wanted to go someplace where she'd be very alone and forced to concentrate, plus someplace she knew little about. The Falklands fit the bill. So off she went. And like I said--this sounds like my dream trip. A house in a windy, rainy, snowy place. Ah. Heaven.
What I liked about the book was mostly the memories of being in the Falklands, the landscape, the sensation of being alone in a guest house on an island where the only other residents are gone for the winter. Wifi barely works and is expensive. There's no cell service. No grocery store--a problem for Stevens, because even though she understood that before going, she only brought enough food to give herself about 1100 calories a day. (She's honest and admits this, but still--she has a Master's degree and didn't think to check what kind of caloric intake she might need?) The writing process comes and goes; sometimes it rips right along, other times it's a frightful push.
And those are the parts that I loved and would rate this book highly for, kind of like Welcome to the Goddamn Ice Cube. Unfortunately, there are several other parts of the book that showcase her fiction writing: a few short stories, some scenes from the novel she worked on while on the island. There are also flashbacks to various points of her life. Honestly? I didn't care. I didn't care about her previous life. I wasn't that interested in her fiction. I just wanted to read about the Falklands and being alone there. Had she stripped everything else out from the story, this would have been a mighty short book. As it is, it's only 240 pages. I'm guessing the publisher had some influence here. Maybe this would have been better as a long magazine article for Poets & Writers, or something like that.
But if you want to read a little about the Falklands and being there alone in the winter, pick this up, and skim through the other parts.