Stevens retreats to the wilderness and writes about it. But she is no naturalist, and her focus is primarily on herself and her determination to be a published writer ... Stevens' descriptions show that she can indeed write. After a slow start — including a month of acclimatization and research in Stanley, the Falklands' capital, which boasts seven pubs but spotty Internet and no cinema – the book takes off when she flies to Bleaker ... One wishes she'd turned her attention outward more, providing additional information about the island's history — and all those penguins and sheep, for starters. Hunger, boredom and disappointment with her novel turn out to be bigger problems than the depression and loneliness she'd feared. Of course, readers of this oddly winning book know that her time wasn't wasted.
As Stevens finally buckles down to write, the memoir moves from travelogue to a cerebral, almost obsessive meditation that begins to fold in on itself...The effect is a dizzying recursion, reflecting the single-mindedness of a writer writing about writing ... Because most of the action is turbulent self-analysis, the book can feel airless and confined at times, locked in by the vast ocean surrounding the island and Stevens’ own mind. But as Stevens wrestles with questions of how (and whether) to turn the grist of life’s happenings into literary material, she paints an honest portrait of writerly neurosis.
Stevens writes with considerable charm and winning honesty, but there is not enough here in the way of a sustained narrative; it is fragmentary, more of a scrapbook than a book. Its target readership is presumably other people who want to write books, but haven’t quite got around to it yet ... Stevens’s whole point, it should be made clear, is that she was foolish and naive to think that going to Bleaker could make her into a novelist. Frustratingly, though, she never subjects the original impulse to any scrutiny. Why did she want to write a novel, when she felt that she had nothing to say? ... it’s a book by somebody who hasn’t quite figured herself out yet; a young writer who should, perhaps, have held off until she was ready to write the novel she had always dreamed of.