Tamsin Calidas’s memoir ‘I am an Island’ divided the Den, which is why, with its arrival in paperback this month, it is our Wild Card choice. On one hand, it is a beautifully written and amazing story of survival and fortitude, but with a slightly cynical hat on, it can appear judgmental on a way of life from which, perhaps through some fault of her own, the author found herself at odds with. Yet this is all good news as it makes for an interesting and lively book club discussion!

Readability

★★★★★★★★✰✰

Talkability

★★★★★★★★★✰

Den scores

★★★★★★★✰✰✰

I AM AN ISLAND

BY TAMSIN CALIDAS

297 pages


“Transformation is regenerative, redemptive and comes with a struggle. For change to come, or to strike out differently, you have to let the rough edge of the pain of all that life throws at you graze your heart.” Tamsin Calidas.


The Den were divided by Tamsin Calidas’s memoir ‘I am an Island’ which is why, with its arrival in paperback this month, it is our Wild Card choice. On one hand, it is a beautifully written and amazing story of survival and fortitude, but with a slightly cynical hat on, it can appear to be a somewhat biased and rather critical judgment on a way of life from which, perhaps through some fault of her own, the author found herself at odds with. Yet this is all good news as it makes for an interesting and lively book club discussion!

Tamsin and her husband Rab give up their successful London jobs and home in Notting Hill, to move to a remote un-named island in the Scottish Hebrides, only 10 miles across. They buy a small derelict croft and slowly make it their home and farm the land. However, their idyllic dream gradually starts to unravel as local hostility, failed IVF, money problems and the harsh way of life take their toll. Eventually, after several years Rab heads back south but Tamsin decides to go it alone.

There is no denying this is an incredibly brave decision and Tamsin’s staying power and determination to live alone in this remote harsh wilderness are remarkable. Some of us were blown away by her story, being at one with nature and her inner strength to not only survive but persist and ultimately thrive. One of the ways in which she finds her salvation is when she starts to swim in the Atlantic every morning.

However, the Den would have liked to hear the other side of her story, as she always seems to bear the brunt of every misfortune and never takes blame herself. It would have been lovely to have heard Rab’s voice together with some of those islanders who were perhaps more on her side than she leads us to believe. She has declined to give her real name or the name of the island she says to protect the islanders, but perhaps also to protect herself.

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