Pages: 'Bleaker House' by Nell Stevens

Monday, 28 October 2019

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Nell Stevens Bleaker House

It’s interesting to think what you could do if all you had to do is focus on your biggest passion, Nell Stevens’ ‘Bleaker House’ is a physical representation of that. An investigation into the creative process, location inspiration and everything you thought writing a novel could be. ‘Bleaker House’ is a book about writing a book, with interjections of story…

Nell Stevens Bleaker House


Nell Stevens was granted a fellowship that funded a three month writing residency anywhere in the world and she opted for the solitary and inhospitable Falkland Islands, in winter. As she says herself “I want to know how good at life I can be in a place where there are no distractions,” so plans her trip so she could spend a month in Stanley, the capital searching for material for her novel in the towns archives before flying out to the uninhabited (due to the time of year) Bleaker Island to write it.

Inspired by the island and Charles Dickens Nell Stevens came to title ‘Bleaker House’ and although she did leave with a book it is not the ‘Bleaker House' novel that she envisioned but kept the title anyway all in the name of the difficulty of novel writing.

Nell Stevens Bleaker House

Before leaving she talks of her desperation for time alone, as if it is romantic to find something where there is nothing but she is consistently reminded that she does not do well alone. Stevens return to this is the drilling in that she wants to write and it may take this dramatic trip to achieve it. Almost committing more to the idea of the book than the book itself. But in this desolate choice you become irritated, in her lack of planning and resource for the trip.Yes she packed enough powdered soup and instant porridge to sustain her but I know if I was alone with ninety thousand words ahead of me I’d need much more wine.

Nell Stevens Bleaker House


Interestingly, Stevens did not bring the story together whilst there, and when reading ‘Bleaker House’ it feels like a mishmash of her other fictional and non fiction writing coming together at least year after she return from the trip. Aspiring to be a book but intertwined between a collection of stories and the attempted art of writing a novel. But an art which we know now is much more of a struggle than it is ever imagined, the idea that we all have a novel in us but life just keeps getting in the way.

Reflecting on this and ‘Bleaker House’ I still can’t quite put my finger on the intermittent stories and how they come together. As if an interlinking thread is missing, almost a naivety in that a trip could make Stevens into a novelist and combining a collection of previous work with her telling of the trip could make it a novel. But although it is not the novel she intended, it is something the was created out of strong passion and intention. A stepping stone in her career as a novelist, fighting between boundaries of fiction whilst pushing her own limitations as a writer.

Nell Stevens Bleaker House

Want to read 'Bleaker House' for yourself? Buy it here. 
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October Charity Shop Book Haul

Sunday, 20 October 2019

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October book haul featuring a stack of books

You all know I love a good rummage around a charity shop and that I am too emotionally attached to books and often want to save them (now you get why i'm single). So the past month with an onslaught of rubbish that has hit my life I have found myself picking up plenty of books in my rare free time up and down the M1. Although they have gone on the never ending 'to be read' pile I am determined to enjoy them all! 

October book haul featuring a stack of books

My first pick ups were from Cancer Research UK where I was lucky enough to pick up Deborah Levy's 'Hot Milk' that explores the strange nature of woman hood and Kurt Vonnegut's collection of short stories 'Armageddon in Retrospect'.

October book haul featuring a stack of books

Then I got more bargains in Age UK with Richard Powers' 'The Overstory' for just £2.50! Ever since hearing Powers speak at 'Off The Shelf Festival' in Sheffield about this novel I have been keeping my eye out for it! It's a hefty book but I have heard amazing things about the intertwining of human life and that of trees. Have you read it? Let me know what you think. 

I also got Sarah Waters' 'The Paying Guest'! I've yet to read a Waters novel that I didn't love so I know this will get read eventually! I'm just missing 'Affinity' now. 

October book haul featuring a stack of books

Next up were some absolute bargains from LOROS which is a hospice charity in Leicestershire and I cannot wait to check their charity shop out again. My Grandma is an avid reader too and I came out with enough books to keep us both busy for a while. 

Alongside some bestsellers I picked up Ann Rule's 'The Stranger Beside me' about Ted Bundy which I cannot wait to read even with its teeny tiny font! 

October book haul featuring a stack of books

My final additions to my October haul were from St Luke's Hospice Charity Shop in Sheffield with some more wintery additions from Laini Taylor and John Green. As well as my continued hunt for Phillip Pullman and this lovely Norton Anthology. 

I think a charity shop or car boot book rummage is one of my favourite things to do! Anyone else agree? 


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