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I Am an Island

I Am an Island

Tamsin Calidas


Moving to an island is many people's dream (including mine). This is a cautionary tale of the challenges, both inflicted and self-inflicted.

Calidas and her then-husband took the hardest possible route, leaving London to start crofting with sheep and horses. That's a challenge at any time, but when utterly separated and with no friends or relative nearby it becomes almost impossible. The hostility from the locals varies in intensity from indifference to outright abuse, running into assumptions of who is "allowed" on the island and under what circumstances – a situation that becomes worse when her marriage breaks down and she nevertheless stays and attempts to make things work, something that no-one (including the local women) expects, understands, or supports.

Times change. The later parts of the book show her almost accepted and with a new influx of islanders who are less ... well, insular than the original inhabitants.

It's hard to decide what to take from this book. For a start, it's unclear how much of the hostility was triggered by Calidas and her husband themselves, not understanding the local sensibilities (although of course it's also hard to know how they'd've learned them). A lot of the tension comes from their efforts at crofting: running a shop would have been easier and perhaps less threatening to others, who felt their life was being intruded-into. But it's also an indication that moving from anonymous city life to a tiny community means adapting to a way of life that normalises surveillance and comment, and makes it difficult to remain aloof.

3/5. Finished 16 October 2022.

(Originally published on Goodreads.)

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