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Island: How Islands Transform the World

Island: How Islands Transform the World [Kindle Edition]

J. Edward Chamberlin
3.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)

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Product Description


"a beautifully-produced little volume"--Arminta Wallace, Irish Times

"[a] "well crafted study"--Philip Marchand, National Post of Toronto

"Chamberlin's book is like a rich archipelago of ideas populating an ocean of imagination." --Natural History Magazine

Product Description

Ever since the dawn of human history, islands have been at the heart of our desires – and our fears. Drawing on anthropology, literature, biology, art, philosophy and earth science, Island tells the groundbreaking story of humans and islands throughout history, and celebrates islands as a central part of the world we live in. With a unique cross-disciplinary approach, encompassing everything from the wonder of an island’s flora and fauna, to the geological roots of island formations, via references to popular culture, poetry and literature (including Prospero, Gulliver, Robinson Crusoe and the Count of Monte Cristo), Chamberlin tells the vivid and absorbing story of how islands have shaped human history, society and culture. Island celebrates islands for all their worth, whether real or invented, literal or fictitious, as a central part of the human narrative.

Product details

  • Format: Kindle Edition
  • File Size: 456 KB
  • Print Length: 224 pages
  • Publisher: Elliott & Thompson (1 Aug 2013)
  • Sold by: Amazon Media EU S.à r.l.
  • Language: English
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
  • X-Ray:
  • Average Customer Review: 3.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #182,470 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
3.0 out of 5 stars Disappointing, too superficial and wide ranging 29 May 2014
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
I wasn't sure exactly what to expect of this book about islands, but the title caught my eye and I have long been intrigued and fascinated by islands and human attitudes towards them, so I downloaded it. It's a mixture of travel writing, botany, geology, literature, spirituality and metaphysics - yet somehow I was left feeling that it had skirted too generally over the surface of most of these areas, and produced a whole that felt rather insubstantial. Quite a lot of the book consists of descriptive lists of flora or fauna on various islands, or relatively brief examples of islands that the author fits into one category or another to demonstrate a point he is trying to make. I would have preferred a more in depth focus on a relatively small number of islands of different types, giving a proper feel for the ebb and flow of human and other life on those islands. From a purely selfish point of view, I would have liked to see some coverage of my favourite islands, the Scillies, scarcely mentioned in this book, and St Kilda, only covered in a paragraph or so. So, all in all, some interesting ideas and quite poetic in places, but a bit disappointing.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 2.0 out of 5 stars  1 review
2.0 out of 5 stars Chamberlin gives me ideas for many more topics I want to read about 13 Nov 2013
By Craig Rowland - Published on
Format:Kindle Edition
Island: How Islands Transform the World by J. Edward Chamberlin tells of the impact islands have made on human history. I have taken many visits to islands as holiday destinations: Prince Edward Island, the Åland Islands, Vardø, the Faroes, Bornholm, Newfoundland and Tristan da Cunha, so I thought Island would be a book I'd want to take with me as a desert-island classic. This book was only 242 pages long but when it takes eight days to get through as short a book as this, there can only be one reason: it bored me to sleep. Even though it covered a subject matter that seemed directed to me personally, for 2013 was the year I announced would be devoted to reading books about islands in homage to my upcoming trip--now past--to Tristan da Cunha, Island never caught my interest as I thought it would. Perhaps Chamberlin's brevity was the problem; for example, I would have preferred to learn much more about the history of sailing and the development of sails in their role in both settling islands as well as getting people off them. At least provide me with more than just a few pages on these topics, as Island, to its credit, covers an enormous range of subject matter. In addition to sailing, Chamberlin discusses island formation and continental drift, the earliest days of European exploration, Darwin's theory of evolution, flightless birds, the role of islands in much to cover yet so little between the covers. I jumped around Island like an island-hopper, taking in only a little bit of information about each new train of thought.

When it came to the specific islands themselves, instead of entire chapters on specific island groups, there were only a few pages on each. Unfortunately for me, an island-lover as it is, these pages told me things I already knew, although I am sure that readers who had never read about the Faroes or Rockall before would have enjoyed their brief sections. He also wrote longer passages about Iceland, the Galápagos and Newfoundland.

Chamberlin covers the differing opinions of what constitutes an island. How big should it be? Or rather, how small? Chamberlin, as a Canadian, filled Island with Canadian references such as the following definition of an island:

"To qualify as one of the Thousand Islands in the St. Lawrence River bordering Canada and the United States, an island should be over one square foot in size, be above water three hundred sixty-five days a year, and support at least one tree.".

Yet there was a different opinion in Scotland:

"The definition of an island in a Scottish census taken in 1861 required that an island must support at least one person and one sheep. In this case, trees were not a requirement."

Chamberlin quoted the poetry of E. J. Pratt often, as well as Rex Murphy and Northrop Frye. I was pleased to find so many Canadian references.

Tristan da Cunha, by the way, was mentioned twice in Island. The first was merely a name-drop in the introduction, The second was a paragraph about the evacuation of Tristan in 1961. While I was on the island I let my isolation fantasies take over. At times when I want to be alone, or when I have the dictatorial fantasy of banishing those who annoy me, I will think of this, the best line in the entire book:

"Islands are good places to send people you never want to see again--and they are also good places to go if you never want to see people again."
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