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The Island of the Colour-blind Hardcover – 25 Oct 1996

4.2 out of 5 stars 13 customer reviews

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Product details

  • Hardcover: 336 pages
  • Publisher: Picador; Television tie-in edition edition (25 Oct. 1996)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0330350811
  • ISBN-13: 978-0330350815
  • Product Dimensions: 23.6 x 15.7 x 3.3 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (13 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 732,546 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

4.2 out of 5 stars
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Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
I was transformed and transported by this book. As a physician, I was caught up totally and completely in the medical Sherlock Holmesian "whodunnit" quest for scientific answers. As a human being residing for a time on planet earth, I was immersed in the beauty and the mystery of places that seem almost fairy-like and magical through the keenly observant eyes of Dr. Sacks. As a soul flickering briefly on that continuum of deep time, I felt a profound sense of awe and existential brevity, but also a sense of connectedness and immortality.
Having just finished the book today, I am aware of a sadness within me, a sadness that my journey to the South Pacific with Dr. Sacks has ended. I return to my clinic tomorrow morning to see patients, but my heart for some days to come will be on Pingelap, or Guam, or.......
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Format: Paperback
I am a big fan of Oliver Sacks and despite my low rating for this book, I will continue to be a big fan. I was simply misled. I thought it was going to be the characteristic, titillating Sacks tale, as were "Awakenings" or "The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat." Instead, it was a disjointed journal of Sacks travels in Micronesia. It certainly had its interesting, intellectual points but fell far short of the usual Sacks page-turner.
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Format: Paperback
A practicing physician, Sacks conveys us on a journey through Pacific islands. He introduces us to some bizarre afflictions. The nature of these illness isn't unusual, but the circumstances on these archipelagoes is bizarre. The cause and mechanism of spread is revealed by none of the investigations they've been subjected to up to now. Genetics, nutritional practices, habitat have all been subject to scrutiny. None have imparted clear root causes for the colour blindness on Pingelap/Pohnpei or nervous disorders on Guam. Both disorders, achromotopia and lytico-bodig are types of afflictions Sacks has dealt with during his years in practice. Both have varying manifestations, making diagnosis difficult. The colour blindness carries other symptoms, sensitivity to bright light and loss of acuity. Reading may be difficult for some ailing victims. The lytico-bodig on Guam is particularly difficult, since the symptoms may not become apparent for generations. Sacks joins local doctors in examining
the patients and recounting the research.
In assessing the symptoms and the environments, Sacks also conveys a sensitive rendering of the islands' histories and current situations. Whalers, missionaries and the U.S. Navy have brought plagues, displaced the inhabitants and ignored their impacts. Indigenous populations have been decimated by diseases introduced by Europeans and North Americans. It's an old, wearying story, but it must be told with honesty and perception.
Sacks does just that, with deep human feeling that makes this book captivating reading. There's few things as frightening as a latent illness that seems to strike at whim.
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Format: Paperback
On the tiny Pacific atoll of Pingelap thrives a community born totally colorblind who can describe their world in rich terms of patterns & tones.
Oliver Sacks writes: "I went to Micronesia as a neurologist, or neutoanthropologist, intent on seeing how individuals and communities responded to unusual endemic conditions - a hereditary total colorblindness on Pingelap and Pohnpei; a progressive fatal neurodegenerative disorder on Guam and Rota. But I also found myself riveted by the cultural life and history of these islands, their unique flora and fauna, their singular geologic origins. If seeing patients, visiting archeological sites, wandering in rain forests, snorkelling in the reefs, at first seemed to bear no relation to each other, they then fused into a single unpartitioneable experience, a total immersion in island life."
And that is where Oliver Sacks takes you, from Fuur, in Jutland to Berkeley in California to Martha's Vineyard to Micronesia and along the way he serves up a fine helping of his childhood and an exquisite selection of botanical pen and ink drawings.
What I have liked about reading an Oliver Sacks book is that he will offer you a variegated read with a thick and juicy notes section. He writes about all manner of things; sunsets and airplane flights; friends with maskun and scotopic times; coconut crabs and cycad ferns; all in a colorful and articulate language. Oliver Sacks is one scientist who has not lost his awe, wonder and keen observational skills.
I learnt as much about ferns growing in a garden during his London childhood as the ferns that flourished and supported whole dynasties of dinosaurs and modern island communities; about his literary heroes, his dreams and his schoolmates' appetites for botany and biology.
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Format: Paperback
I've been a big fan of Sacks since _Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat,_ and have often reread that, his best book. This book, however, is dull and lame. No surprise to learn that Sacks' vacations are pleasant for him -- less surprise to learn they're tedious for us. Illustrated history of cycads -- bah. In a rare dilletantish mood, Sacks rambles around Micronesia shaking hands and looking at vegetation. Absent are the usual meticulous studies of the human mind; the passion is diluted by a rambling, shambling pseudostructure of historical fragments, slogging through ruins, and hanging out with old chums. Then... there are 100 pp of notes about an already tiresome text! Any writer is entitled to a mistake--I will buy Sacks' next book. This one, however, is going into my storage bin.
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