Tuesday, 23 April 2013

Book 14 of 2012: An Island to Oneself by Tom Neale

I've had An Island To Oneself by Tom Neale in a pile of books to read for a couple of years now. It was passed onto me by someone who thought I might appreciate it considering the fact that I sort of live on a little desert island of my own. I've often read the back cover and thought about reading it, but never seemed to get around to it. But I needed a letter I for the HTV Spring Reading Challenge and this seemed like the perfect choice.


This book documents the life of the author as he lived on a remote desert island, called Suvarov, for six years in two separate stints. There are a selections of photos included in the middle, mostly taken by a journalist who visited the island. The book explains his life before he moved to the island, his first period of living there and how it came to an end, followed by his mission to return and the unexpected neighbours he acquired there.

I really enjoyed this book. Considering how long it's taken me to actually pick it up and start reading it, I got through it very quickly. I always think that a good sign of how good a book is, is how easy it is to put down. This one I even found myself reading it in my breaks at work; if I'd not had to go to work I would have gotten through it a lot quicker!

It was a fascinating way of life. It kept on reminding me of the 'Desert Island' project we did in our first year of secondary school where we had to pretend we had been ship-wrecked. I wish I'd read this book back then, it would've been very helpful when we were coming up with how we would have survived. I doubt whether it would be very easy these days to just give up everything and move away to an uninhabited island, for one thing you'd probably come up against no end of red tape that would stop you now.

That said, I think if you could get away now, it would be a lot easier with modern technology. Neale ends up experiencing a bit of a medical emergency which would have been really deadly, especially considering the fact that he was living well off the route of many shipping systems. Nowadays, with a GPS laptop or something, he wouldn't be quite so cut off.

I do have to admit, I found the idea of running away and living on an island alone a little bit selfish. Not only because if anything happened to him it would be up to someone else to rescue him, but also because of the what he could do to a delicate ecosystem. However, Suvarov was home to other people during the Second World War, and one person didn't seem to have much of an impact to the wildlife there (with the exception of the pigs which had been left to run wild by the people there before Neale).

I found Neale very likeable. I liked the way that he described everything and how the story was framed. At times I did feel quite sad for him when he was having to leave the island, and when he wrote about going there you could almost feel his excitement. My only complaint was that it wasn't long enough. There were some bits that I wished he'd gone into more detail for. I also wish there were more photos and perhaps a map of the island. It was hard to get an exact idea of the scale of things there.

It's definitely a book that I'd like to read again in the future. There's a little island just to one side of Bute, known as The Inch; while I was reading, it seemed perfectly achievable just to drop everything and head over there with a couple of cats and some fishing sticks. I'll try and resist that temptation for a little while yet though.

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Let me know what you think. :-)