books · features · shanti

The Bookish Planet: Islands

Good morning Virtually Readers. You are all travelers, going back and forth between cities and oceans and galaxies and all the places in between (usually through books let’s be real). So it is with great pleasure today that I can give you a guide to one of the most wonderful places of all: an island. Sometimes these islands are magical; sometimes they are tropical. Whatever it is, you’ll be glad you went there.

bookish planet

Description: The key feature of the island is its isolation from the rest of the world. This can create a magical feeling where relationships are more intense, and time has its own spin. This creates a story that is compelling, for how self sustaining it is. The outside world loses its influence; you are in a bubble of island life. But islands still have problems; don’t forget that, no matter how absorbing they are. Islands are still part of the world, and that is part of what makes them so worth visiting. Don’t let the island consume you, despite the wonder of the ceaseless ocean and the people. Each island is unique, and therefore it is worthwhile to visit several, just to get a sense of the breadth and range of this location.

People: The gorgeous pageant contestants of Beauty Queens (by Libba Bray); Puck and Sean from Thisby, in The Scorpio Races (by Maggie Stiefvater); Morveren and Jenna from Stormswept (by Helen Dunmore); Persis, from Across a Star Swept Sea (by Diana Peterfreund); Sophie from A Brief History of Montmaray (by Michelle Cooper); Tamsen, from Young Widows Club (by Alexandra Coutts); Anne, from Anne of Green Gables (by L.M. Montgomery); Frances from Daughter of Deep Silence (by Carrie Ryan); Katie Morag from Katie Morag (by Mairi Hedderwick and okay this is technically a childrens picture books series but IT’S REALLY BEAUTIFUL) .

History: Some islands have been there forever, such as Thisby. Others are seemingly newly inhabited, like the island in Beauty Queens. Wherever you are, there are often residents who would love to introduce you to the history. Pick up a brochure, ask someone at the local shop. If you’re really lucky, someone may have written a history—for example, the isle of Montmaray has a Brief History written by Princess Veronica Fitzosbourne.

Where to Stay: Many islands have a bed and breakfast where you can stay. Otherwise, you’ll have to hope you can find a castle or a friendly resident. If the island is uninhabited, Robinson Crusoe it up (or Swiss family Robinson if you’re with others) and make huts, feed yourself from the jungle and so on. You can do it. (probably.)

Culture: Island culture, rather like finches on the Galapogos islands, develops independently. Try to figure that out. Some places have water horses, others have grief support groups, vengeance plots, or mermaids. Most islands have a hatred of tourists. So don’t act like a tourist. Be genuinely interested. Don’t be a prat. This is good life advice in general. Islanders don’t like to be taken for granted; ask them questions, discover what makes them different, what makes you the same. Be respectful. Also enjoy the food. Islands, at least those with decent housekeepers, have great food, like November cakes. You can visit islands at any time of year—so what are you waiting for? If you can’t *actually* go to an island, spray some salt water in the air, grab a book, and commence your journey.

What’s your favourite book set on an island? Have you read any of these ones? let me know in the comments!

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12 thoughts on “The Bookish Planet: Islands

  1. I don’t know that I have a favorite, but it seems that most of the books I’ve read about islands were built around the, “shipwrecked unfortunate encounters something really scary” sort of theme. Island of Dr. Moreau, Lord of the Flies, The Tempest, And Then There Were None, The Most Dangerous Game….

    If Japan counts, then perhaps my favorite island-set book is “Silence”, though the aspect of Japan as an island is mostly only a subtle influence on the setting rather than an explicit feature of the plot.

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    1. I read Silence for English this year, and it was just such a good book, really nuanced and powerful. I didn’t think much about the shipwrecked genre, though I remember reading more of those kinds of books when I was younger. There was this one about two girls and two babies (who were unrelated to them) stranded on an island and I think it was called Baby Island….

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  2. I have to say, I’m surprised that Shakespeare’s Tempest isn’t on this list! Since pretty much I think that is the ultimate island story. I definitely think the isolated culture and the way in which that setting allows social norms and moral constructions to unravel makes island stories among the most interesting. I would consider Lord of the Flies on the same wavelength, although I hate that book. Islands definitely serve an interesting metaphorical purpose!

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    1. Oh yeah, that’s another great book. I don’t think I’ve ever read the actual one though–maybe that would be another good summer project. I read Lord of the Flies in ninth grade, and it was pretty creepy. Also, I think it was mentioned in Artemis Fowl at some point and now I want to reread the entire Artemis Fowl series. (thanks for that btw)

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