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I Am An Island Reviews

I Am An Island by Tamsin Calidas

I Am An Island

Tamsin Calidas

4.00 out of 5

3 reviews

Imprint: Doubleday
Publisher: Transworld Publishers Ltd
Publication date: 23 Jul 2020
ISBN: 9780857526656

'Completely astonishing...the fragility of life transcended and restored by the triumphant pull of a determination to survive' - Juliet Nicolson When Tamsin Calidas first arrives on a remote island in the Scottish Hebrides, it feels like coming home.

4 stars out of 5
Helen Davies
17 May 2020

"A writer’s struggles in a remote corner of Scotland make for remarkable reading"

I Am an Island is a wondrous, sensuous memoir of salt-stung survival. The losses and griefs, which are delivered in unrelentingly clear-eyed and poetic prose, pile up continually. In her twenties, the Oxford-educated Calidas was in a catastrophic car crash that left her “screaming in agony” and barely able to walk, sleep or lie down in bed. It “drew a line under and through my life” and she dreamt of a new existence in Scotland. Fourteen years ago, and six months married to Rab, she swapped London for a derelict croft on a Hebridean island, population fewer than 120, where the winter sun sets at 3pm and rises after 9am. What followed was a life of vast skies, wild sea, hard work and slowly soured hope.


4 stars out of 5
16 May 2020

"I found I Am An Island an uncomfortable yet beautiful read"

Calidas’ writing is beautiful and lyrical, making her memoir strangely compelling. Yet it is difficult to see the author as the completely innocent party in this battle of cultures between the apparently old-fashioned islanders and the incomer from Notting Hill. Her own prejudices often slip out. When she first speaks to Cristall – to whom Calidas has offered her services as a gardener – she freely admits that she is thrilled to hear an “educated English accent”. Any other friendships she does make – a scene near the end refers to her being surrounded by “harmonious voices” and “laughter” – she skips over, seemingly preferring to focus on the hostility.

4 stars out of 5
2 May 2020

"tough yet compulsive reading, carried by crisp, vivid prose"

Gradually she recovers from the trauma of her past and finds her own understanding of ‘the old ways’. She begins to appreciate the harshness of her island home, where ‘the landscape wears no airs and graces. It offers no false promises. I recognise in its stark simplicity a way of life I have grown to love beyond words.’ There is an admirable purity to Calidas’s persistence; and while I started reading thinking she was rather foolish, I ended up wondering whether she might not be uncommonly wise.