Bleaker House | Penguin Random House Canada

Bleaker House

Chasing My Novel to the End of the World

Publisher: Knopf Canada
On a frozen island in the Falklands, with only penguins for company, a young would-be writer struggles to craft a debut novel...and instead writes a funny, clever, moving memoir that heralds the arrival of a fresh new literary talent.

Twenty-seven-year-old Nell Stevens was determined to write a novel, but somehow life kept getting in the way. Then came an irresistible opportunity: she won a fellowship to spend three months, all expenses paid, anywhere in the world to research and write a book. Did she choose a glittering metropolis, a romantic village, an exotic paradise? Um, no. Nell chose Bleaker Island, a snowy, windswept pile of rock off the Falklands. There, in a guesthouse where she would be the only guest, she imagined she could finally rid herself of distractions and write her 2,500 words a day. In three months, surely she'd have a novel, right?
     It's true that there aren't many distractions on Bleaker, other than sheep, penguins, paranoia and the weather. But as Nell gets to work on her novel--a delightful Dickensian fiction she calls Bleaker House--she discovers that an excruciatingly erratic Internet connection and 1100 calories a day (as much food as she could carry in her suitcase, budgeted to the raisin) are far from ideal conditions for literary production. With deft humour, this memoir traces Nell's island days and slowly reveals details of the life and people she has left behind in pursuit of her art. They pop up in her novel, as well, as memoir and novel start to reflect one another. It seems that there is nowhere Nell can run--neither a remote island nor the pages of her notebook--to escape herself.
     A whimsical, entertaining, thought-provoking blend of memoir and travelogue, laced with tongue-in-cheek writing advice, Bleaker House brilliantly captures the hopes, fears, self-torture and humour of being young and yearning to make a creative life. With winning honesty and wit, Nell's race to finish her book emerges as a fascinating narrative in its own right.


A generous donor has made it possible for us to send most of our students abroad after they complete their degree requirements. Global Fellows in Fiction may go to any country and do there what they wish, for a typical stay of up to three months. The Global Fellowship adventure is not only intended to help Boston...
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1. If you were given the chance to go anywhere in the world to write a novel, where would you go? Why? 

2. Nell spends a lot of time trying to control the distractions in her life. Have you ever been able to rid your life of distractions? If so, how?

3. At one point in the book, Nell writes “It...
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“Nell Stevens takes you on a wild ramble across the landscape of the writing life, and at the end sets you down somewhere entirely new and unexpected. This is a romp of a book, a genre-defying feat of the imagination and pure pleasure to read.” —Alison Pick, author of Far to Go and Between Gods
Bleaker House is so riveting and so much fun to read, I would have loved it even if it hadn’t also been innovative and brilliant, but it is all those things. Nell Stevens is an excellent writer, as well as great company, and I can’t wait to read every book she writes.” —Kate Christensen, author of The Great Man and Blue Plate Special
“I adored Bleaker House . . . Hilarious and original, charming and engaging.” —Rebecca Wait, author of The Followers and The View on the Way Down