Islander | Granta

  • Published: 03/05/2018
  • ISBN: 9781783781904
  • 129x20mm
  • 368 pages


Patrick Barkham

The British Isles are an archipelago made up of two large islands and 6,289 smaller ones. Some, like the Isle of Man, resemble miniature nations, with their own language and tax laws; others, like Ray Island in Essex, are abandoned and mysterious places haunted by myths, ghosts and foxes. There are resurgent islands such as Eigg, which have been liberated from capricious owners to be run by their residents; holy islands like Bardsey, the resting place of 20,000 saints, and still a site of spiritual questing; and deserted islands such as St Kilda, famed for the evacuation of its human population, and now dominated by wild sheep and seabirds.

In this evocative and vividly observed book, Patrick Barkham explores some of the most beautiful landscapes in the British Isles as he travels to ever-smaller islands in search of their special magic. Our small islands are both places of freedom and imprisonment, party destinations and oases of peace, strangely suburban and deeply wild. They are places where the past is unusually present, but they can also offer a vision of an alternative future. Meeting all kinds of islanders, from nuns to puffins, from local legends to rare subspecies of vole, he seeks to discover what it is like to live on a small island, and what it means to be an islander.

[A] wonderfully warm-hearted social, natural and above all literary history of the islands that surround the larger island of Britain... a thing of real beauty [with] lucid, meticulous prose... It's rare to read a book as good-spirited as this, where the narrative voice is so eager, inquisitive but non-judgemental, the worldview so benevolent and open-hearted... Brimming with nature, literature and the eccentric life of the islanders Barkham meets, this is a fitting tribute to the strangeness and beauty of our British isles

Alex Preston, Financial Times

Barkham is blessed with a talent far rarer in nature writers than a corncrake in Surrey - he has a wonderful sense of humour and can be very funny... He also has an eye for the quirky and counterintuitive in the human world... Islander is a charming and attractive book... his shrewd study of the islander mentality [...] could stand for the entire country

Hugh Thomson, Spectator

Barkham's vibrant travel book [...] unearths a rich vein of history... Full of fascinating detail, his book succeeds superbly in conveying the difficulties and allure of island living

Ian Critchley, Sunday Times

The Author

Patrick Barkham is natural history writer for the Guardian. He is author of The Butterfly Isles, Badgerlands, Coastlines and Islander. His latest book is Wild Child. He lives in Norfolk with his family.

More about the author →

From the Same Author

Patrick Barkham on

Essays & Memoir | Granta 153

The Possibility of an Emperor

Patrick Barkham

‘I had always been told that the purple emperor was rare because old woods were rare.’