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Sea Room: An Island Life Hardcover – 1 Oct 2001

4.4 out of 5 stars 57 customer reviews

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Product details

  • Hardcover: 256 pages
  • Publisher: HarperCollins; First Edition edition (1 Oct. 2001)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0002571641
  • ISBN-13: 978-0002571647
  • Product Dimensions: 19.6 x 14 x 3.8 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (57 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 554,626 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Product Description

Amazon Review

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

Review

Praise for Adam Nicolson's Perch Hill:

'A delight, beautifully written, acutely observed and laced with self-mockery' Jonathan Dimbleby in the The Times

'By turns ecstatic, elegant, subtle and philosophical' Richard Mabey

'A timely reminder that the very best writing starts at home.' Robert McCrum in The Observer

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Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This is a magnificent book, beautifully written with many excellent illustrations, likely to be the definitive volume on the Shiant Islands for years to come. More, it provides the benchmark for what is required for a study of all Scotland's outlying islands; all previous studies will be found wanting after this exemplary model.

The book consists of sixteen chapters fundamentally dealing with the geology, wildlife and archareology of three uninhabited islands lying five miles or so off the coast of Lewis. But this is no dry history. The back cloth is a dazzling concentration of towering basaltic cliffs, crowds of guillemots, razorbills, great skuas and 240,000 puffins; the violence and danger of the surrounding seas; the songs and verse which encapsulate former island life, accounts of attempted murder, witchcraft and catastrophe and the treasured place the Shiants still hold in the Hebridean mind. The stage is a microcosm of richness: Bronze Age gold, the memory of sea eagles, an 8th century hermit and his carved stone pillow, memories of cruel clearances soaked up by the landscape and tales passed down from generation to generation.

This is not another 'happy-clappy' saga written by a romantic, weekend recluse but a powerful baring of the soul by a man who has earned the admiration and friendship of his fellow islanders intertwined with his love of the past and a deep understanding of the rocks from which these islands have been hewn. For the first time since he inherited the Shiants from his father twenty years ago, Adam Nicolson tells the full story of his own experiences there in a style no other writer of the Hebrides has ever attempted before or since.
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By A Customer on 30 Mar. 2005
Format: Paperback
Let me make my position clear. I'm a city person. I thrive on concrete and diesel fumes and multi-storey car parks. I would no more go and live on some rocky Hebridean island and take an interest in BIRDLIFE than row across the Atlantic in a tin bath. However... such is Nicolson's way with words, such is the quality of his writing and the sheer infectiousness of his enthusiasm that I not only read the book cover to cover, I actually considered taking a trip north. Maybe not yet. But one day. I want to check out those puffins.
Sea Room provides the reader with an entire magical world called the Shiant Islands. Their history is fascinating, out there among the Vikings, in among the lairds and feuds. Even the derivation of the various names is fascinating. Then comes Nicolson's own family involvement,(and the family we're talking about is that of Harold Nicolson and Vita Sackville-West). Naturally, the Hebridean locals don't welcome him with open arms, this foreigner, this city-dweller. Not initially. But Nicolson the writer isn't telling patronizing yarns about local yokels; this is a serious portrait of the frustrations and triumphs that attend any project involving people and ownership.
But most of all, Sea Room is poetry. It's beautifully written. Nicolson's language effortlessly evokes rocky coasts and crashing seas and air thickly textured with the calls of half a million puffins. I fell in love with those puffins. And the Hebrides aren't that far away, are they? Not too far to nip up one day and have a look before settling back in my own asphalt paradise?
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Format: Paperback
This book is a beautifully written story, which manages to combine the personal story of Adam Nicolson's relationship with some tiny islands in the north of Scotland with history, geology, archaeology and people's relationship with the sea. Always moving and exciting, it is an intimate love letter to one of the wilder places in the British Isles. It delves deep into the past, while remaining firmly, bravely and wittily engaged in the present. A wonderful read, which deepens the reader's knowledge of an extraordinary place, while addressing much wider issues of the human predicament.
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Format: Paperback
This is a stunningly-written account of Adam Nicholson's love of the islands passed to him by his father. Laden with detail, both historical and archaeological, it avoids any possible dryness by its inclusion of the human element in two forms: Nicholson himself along with friends and family; and, more importantly, those who have helped him discover - and therefore truly know - his islands. His appreciation and gratitude of all are obvious and irresistibly expressed. Descriptive passages are exactly that, eloquent and often plain beautiful. If you are a fan of emotive and well-written books, give it a try; you won't regret it. This is probably the most unorthodox love story you will ever read.
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Format: Paperback
Three years ago, I saw 'Sea Room' in a small shop in Ullapool just before I caught the ferry to the Western Isles. Never have I been so captivated by a book. I was so taken that when i arrived in Lewis I travelled to the Isle of Harris and caught a lift with a fisherman who dropped me off on the Islands for a day. I clambered about on the rocks and imagined the place through the eyes of the author, his father and the countless generations who lived there before him.

Maybe I might suffer form emothional bias when I praise this book therefore, having soaked up the enthusiasm of Adam Nicolson. But my passion for this book is still immeasurable today nonetheless and this is why - I am no geologist, but I became fascinated by the rocks on the Shiants even before I arrived, as I was the folklore of the islands, the history, the dark fierce winters and the stories linked to every beach. I love the fact that Adam Nicolson is soaked with sentimentality and nostalgia for the place, it's infectious and moving. Reading this book turns the Shiants into a living place, bustling with seabirds, sea breeze, seals and ancient settlements, a few rocks jutting out of the churning sea. Tieing this in with their sheer isolation makes it a perfect remedy for escapism, to an almost spiritual level. But far far better to go there, and this book will urge you to make the journey.
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