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Island on the Edge of the World: The Story of St Kilda [Paperback]

Charles MacLean
4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (10 customer reviews)
Price: 7.99 & FREE Delivery in the UK on orders over 10. Details
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Book Description

30 Mar 2006
For more than 2000 years the people of St Kilda remained remote from the world. Its society was viable, even Utopian; but in the nineteenth century the island was discovered by missionaries, do-gooders and tourists, who brought money, disease and despotism. St Kildan culture gradually disintegrated and in 1930 the few remaining islanders asked to be evacuated.

Frequently Bought Together

Island on the Edge of the World: The Story of St Kilda + The Life and Death of St. Kilda + St Kilda (Souvenir Guide)
Price For All Three: 18.93

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Product details

  • Paperback: 210 pages
  • Publisher: Canongate Books; Main edition (30 Mar 2006)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1841957550
  • ISBN-13: 978-1841957555
  • Product Dimensions: 19.4 x 12.4 x 2 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (10 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 150,852 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Product Description


"'A story like a marvellous pebble, wet from the sea, strange and comic like all things out of step with time, sad as the old songs the women sang, splendidly told...' Sunday Times 'A fascinating book...Charles Maclean is an excellent writer...he describes the story of St Kilda with powerful compassion.' Magnus Magnusson 'What the St Kildan story, as told by Maclean, did for me was to reawaken my awe at the strangeness of our world.' Will Self"

About the Author

Charles Maclean was born in 1946, eldest son of Sir Fitzroy Maclean of Strachur, Argyll. He was educated at Eton and Oxford. Before becoming a full-time writer he had a variety of jobs, including periods as a merchant seaman and as a cowboy; he also played in a rock and roll band. In a diverse and international writing career, he has been on the staff of Vogue and the Ecologist. He has also written prose fiction, including The Pathetic Phallus (1977), The Watcher (1982) and The Silence (1996). In the mid-70s he spent two years writing and researching The Wolf Children, a true story of two girls found living with wolves in the jungles of Bengal and published to wide praise in 1977. He has also written a number of books on the landscape and culture of Scotland, including Malt Whisky (1997), Scottish Country (1992) and Romantic Scotland (2000).

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Front Cover | Copyright | Table of Contents | Excerpt | Index | Back Cover
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Customer Reviews

4.4 out of 5 stars
4.4 out of 5 stars
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
I wanted to find out more about St Kilda, the St Kildans and their history and this book cetainly contained lots of information. I particularly enjoyed the excerpts from earlier writings by travellers to St Kilda from hundreds of years ago and the book answered lots of questions I'd had. However, it did jump around from era to era and I found myself having to refer back to earlier chapters to try to fit what I was reading into a time line.

It was definitely thought provoking and I was both entertained and depressed by trying to imagine what the St Kildans' day to day lives would have been like and what their thoughts might have been.

Well worth buying!
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Great synopsis of the St Kilda story 19 July 2006
A fantastic introduction to the islands collectively known as St Kilda. I've read several books about St Kilda and this interpretation combines readability and historical statistics just about perfectly. If you want to read your first book on St Kilda, you can't go far wrong with this.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars An Excellent Read ! 1 Oct 2011
Before reading this book I had a slight curiosity about St Kilda. The more I read, the more interesting it became and the more the author brought the place to life.
Maclean describes the accounts of the earliest known settlers and draws some conclusions about the ebb and flow of the population over time. Naturaly there is most information known about the islanders from the 1700s onwards up to the evacuation of the island. The book has some interesting pictures and I could only suggest the addition of a map as being a useful extra page that might have been included.
About halfway through you realise what a truly unique community this was - they seem at one point to have achieved almost by necessity as near perfect a democratic society as it is perhaps possible to get for humans with all our failings. However, it is a warts-and-all account and Maclean points out the failings too. Maclean steers clear of the diversion of the sheer beauty of the place and concentrates on what the reality of life was, nor does he pull any punches about the effect of organised religion and do-gooders on the people (who after all had managed for over a thousand years to survive without it and with no apparent moral decline!), nor on the effects tourism and free aid had on the character of the people. In all, it is a frank account unclouded by sentimentalism, though I think that you still cannot come away from this book unmoved yet still understanding that what happened was sadly inevitable.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Fascinating look at an isolated society 2 Dec 2008
Fascinating look at this tiny island and its isolated community. Also an interesting study of the way societies react to change from without and how larger societies seek to influence smaller ones.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
Having been intrigued by stories of St Kilda for a while, I finally got round to buying this book and am very glad I did.

The author tells the somewhat sad story of the island and its people very well, and blends history, natural history, and human element in to a very readable and enjoyable book.

He also draws interesting parallels to other indigenous communities around the world that have undergone the same fate as St Kilda, and explains why it was inevitable that, once contact with the outside world became too frequent, the St Kildan way of life could never survive.

I would thoroughly recommend this book to anyone who has ever wondered what life was like on St Kilda and why the St Kildans themselves eventually requested to be relocated to the mainland.
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