Bleaker House: Chasing My Novel to the End of the World

bleaker house.jpg

When Nell Stevens was awarded a fellowship for writing that allowed her to travel anywhere in the world for inspiration, she chose the Falkland Islands. Cold and isolated, this small archipelago off the southern tip of Argentina is home to many penguins but not much else. There, in a drafty house on Bleaker Island, Stevens begins to write.

A blend of memoir and short fiction, Bleaker House chronicles the months Stevens spent alone on the barren island. Every day, she battles hunger pangs — the food she brings in her suitcase must last for the duration of her stay — and the creeping terror of not finishing her novel in time to catch the plane home. Written with self-deprecating humor and an atmospheric sense of place, Bleaker House transports the reader to the windswept end of the world.

“I dressed in the chill — sweatpants over jeans over tights, wooly hiking socks pulled halfway up my calves — and scurried to the window. Behind the curtain, there it was: the island and, all around it, the sea.  

I flew here yesterday, from Stanley, capital of the Falkland Islands, in a tiny plane. We juddered over the sea and over a blot of lumpy islands, then past a white beach crowded with penguins, before landing, softly, on grass.  I stepped down from the plane to face a little hut and a sign that read, in crooked letters, ‘Welcome to Bleaker Island.’

Now, I am the sole resident of a large, dark house. When I first arrived, I stood in the doorway to watch the sun drop out of the sky into the grey water, listening to the thick silence of this empty corner of the world.”

Nell Stevens is a British writer of memoir and fiction. Her books include Bleaker House and The Victorian & the Romantic (titled Mrs. Gaskell & Me in the U.K.) She lives and teaches in London.

Published:  2017
Length:  241 pages
Main setting: Bleaker Island, Falkland Islands
Secondary settings: Stanley, Falkland Islands; London, England, U.K.; Boston, Massachusetts, U.S