Biographies are supposed to deal with people, not places, but Adam Nicolson's lyrical new book, Sea Room
, is best seen as a biography. Dealing with the geology, history, natural history, sociology, and emotional resonance of the Shiants--a trio of Hebridean Islands between Skye and Harris --Nicolson's book is an all-encompassing characterisation of this remote corner of the British Isles.
Nicolson begins by describing how, inheriting the islands from his father as a young man, the islands have come to have an unusually deep meaning for him. This comes out in his painstaking reconstruction of the geological formation of the islands, of their ancient bronze and iron age settlements, and of the harsh lives of the families that lived here until large-scale economies destroyed traditional Hebridean life.
There is much sadness and anger in Nicolson's account of these changes, but also joy--joy at the richness of life in such a place, and joy that these changes have allowed Nicolson himself to experience the Shiants' beauty. The precision with which almost every inch of the islands' physical and historical identities are described is, literally, marvellous; Nicolson eschews generalities, and writes with a love of detail that is increasingly rare. Although the book is a little maudlin at times, this is only the reflection of Nicolson's own sensitivity to the place. The Shiants are anthropomorphised, becoming a character in their own right, proof that the tiniest place can reflect the passage of time. --Toby Green
--This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
'Exceptionally well done, beautifully written, personal yet panoramic.' Observer
'An extraordinarily outward-looking book…a truly passionate attention to detail…. A love-letter no one else could hope to write so well.' Sunday Telegraph
'A passionate evocation, a compression of observation and anecdote which catches you up in its intelligence as well as its enthusiasm, and fill you with homesickness for a place you've never been to.' Daily Telegraph
'Generous, exuberant and a vividly written narrative…. history, travel-writing and memoir of the best sort.' Spectator
'Sharply observed, a finely written work, one to be savoured, turned over and over like a good whisky.' Sunday Times
'Palpably exciting narrative – lyrical, compelling, earthy, always readable, and often surprising. Nicolson's book is an adventure story with Hemingway highs and is also unselfconscious, wonderfully idiosyncratic, and, above all, beautifully written.' Literary Review
'A passionate account of the Shiants with a lyricism that brings the islands to life.' Sunday Telegraph
'He conjures the numinous spirit of the place in long, lyric stretches and weaves a vivid tapestry of people and events.' Evening Standard
'A wise, witty, enlightening, enchanting book.' Times Literary Supplement
'A fine storyteller.' Independent on Sunday
'Beautifully written.' Time Out
'Enthralling throughout.' Independent