-> 2008 -> Book Review - Writers on Islands

Saturday, 20/Dec/2008

Book Review - Writers on Islands

Picture of a book 'Writers on Islands' with Islay whisky and chocolate around it

With Christmas just around the corner you might still be looking for an Islay related Christmas present. While time might be running out to get it in time for Christmas (how about a voucher for the book instead?) I have a recommendation for you: It's not an Islay book as such, but there's enough Islay, Jura and Gigha in it to make it worthwile for an Islayphile (apart from the fact that it's a great book in any case).

Before I start I think I should point out that I have a minor personal interest in the book (also called ‘disclosure’), as already mentioned in the heads up about the book. The personal interest is the picture on the front cover, it's a picture taken by me. A few months ago James Knox Whittet contacted me about using the picture, a question I didn't have to think about for long.

Picture of a map inside a book

But back to the book: The book is called Writers on Islands and is published by Iron Press. It is edited by James Knox Whittet, who was born and brought up on Islay. He grew up with the view over the Sound of Islay to the Paps of Jura, something which shines through in the foreword to the book and the stories and essays he selected for it. The map index provides a good idea of the 42 islands around Britain and Ireland covered in the book with contributions by 50 different authors. Some famous names include George Orwell (Letters from Barnhill), John Betjeman, Heinrich Böll (his name should be familiar at least to my German readers) and W.B. Yeats. A contributor known to many people from Islay is Jane Dawson.

Now I haven't had time to read the whole book yet, just a few selected stories, letters and essays, but I think they give me a good enough impression of the book. All of them were fascinating and highlighted a different aspect of island life. The pure determination of Calum MacLeod building a road on Raasay is something that will stick in my mind. George Orwell's comparison of the ‘poor’ crofter to the town labourer is very interesting. Heinrich Böll's ‘Thoughts on Irish Rain’ seem to be quite fitting for the time of year.

I think I can highly recommend the book with a good conscience, I'm sure my opinion would have been the same if I didn't have the minor personal interest in the book. I'm just happy that I had the opportunity to contribute to it. I think it's probably best enjoyed with a wee dram of (Islay) single malt whisky and if available in front of an open fire.

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