Pages: 'Bleaker House' by Nell Stevens

Monday, 28 October 2019

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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