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

Charles MacLean
5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)

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Book Description

15 April 2001
A part of Britain but a world apart, St Kilda society existed almost completely isolated from the mainstream of civilization for more than 1000 years. Increased contact with the mainland during the 19th century brought about the downfall of what many once regarded as an ideal society. Missionaries and tourists brought money, disease and despotism. In 1930 the islanders, who could no longer support themselves, were finally evacuated at their own request. The island, which is difficult to access, is now a nature reserve. The island's story was chiefly recorded by outsiders. This book examines the island and the St Kildan society as a microcosm of a process which is consistently taking place, often on a much larger scale, all over the world. St Kilda remains a symbol of the ability of man to survive in the most hostile of environments and it remains a fascination unique among islands. This new edition of Charles Maclean's study of the island contains an introduction highlighting recent findings about St Kilda.


Product details

  • Paperback: 196 pages
  • Publisher: Canongate Books (15 April 2001)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0862413885
  • ISBN-13: 978-0862413880
  • Product Dimensions: 19.6 x 12.6 x 0.8 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 218,700 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
10 of 10 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Life on the edge of the world 18 Sep 2006
By G. Page
This is an amazing book, one of the best I have read, painting a picture of the fascinating island community off the west coast of Scotland, until it was finally depopulated in 1930. The harsh lifestyle of the St Kildans, climbing precipitous cliffs hunting seabirds, proving their marital worth by extremely hazardous acts of climbing, and the government of a small community are all eloquently told. The story has themes of real tragedy; the pernicious effect the arrival of the strictest Scottish Presbyterianism had on St Kildans; the impact of tourism via steamship cruise landings and the shattering decisions in the 1920s that human occupation of St Kilda was no longer socially or economically viable. Charles Maclean also includes some stunning photos of island geography and life. This book gives real insight into the community and makes you want to visit the island
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars worth 10 stars 29 Mar 2007
I've read this book over and over, and nevel tire of it.

This book elequently tells us the story of this amazing island. The everyday life, the harshest existance, the terrible infant death rates, the effect of the austere presbyterian "wee frees" are all covered in enthralling detail. Sadly the island eventually succummed to outside influences, and in the later days the once proud islanders beame dependent on the charity of outsiders. In that, they were a micrososm of native communities around the world.

If you like this book then I can heartily recommend "The edge of the world" - a film (available on video) which was filmed on the Shetland island of Foula in the 1930's and told (loosely) the story of the St Kilda evacuation.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
Amazon.com: 4.5 out of 5 stars  2 reviews
13 of 13 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A fascinating account of life on St Kilda 13 May 2000
By cfenn - Published on Amazon.com
I have read Charles Mclean's book on St Kilda many times. On one level it is a fascinating account of the inhabited history of St Kilda, a group of islands off the north western coast of Scotland whose population survived until 1930 largely independently of the mainland. On another, it is an insightful analysis of the both the durability and long-term unviability of remote communities. Mclean writes with genuine affection for St Kilda and, one detects, admiration for the physical and physchological endurance of the St Kildans. Yet he avoids overly-romanticising what was often a harsh and ultimately impossible way of life, albeit one that had survived for hundreds of years. The story of St Kilda is genuinely tragic and Mclean delicately captures the collective melancholy of a people who know that they have been overtaken by the pace and demands of modern society. His final reflections on the nature of primitive social organisation remain relevant today as society (often in the form of major oil companies) come to terms with the few remaining truly remote communities left in the world. This is a wonderful book by a gifted and learned writer. I recommend it.
10 of 10 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Account of a Scottish island before its complete evacuation 5 Oct 1999
By A Customer - Published on Amazon.com
A fascinating history of a tiny island 110 miles off the coast of mainland Scotland that was evacuated in 1930 and remains a sanctuary to sea birds and a site for archaeological study. MacLean's account is extremely well-written, detailing the simple lifestyle of the people that was made unfeasible over the years by the outside world, the damage being done by everything from disease to which the islanders were not immune, overly zealous missionaries, and an undermining of the islanders' self-reliance. The last chapter, in which the author gives his opinions on utopian society as a concept is a bit dated (pub. date 1972) but overall the book is terrific.
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