It strikes me that I’ve had mixed opinions on the critically acclaimed nature writing I’ve read of late. Some stuff has been a bit of a slog to get through. Islands of Abandonment isn’t in that category, it’s great.
Beginning with some spoil heaps in Scotland Cal Flyn takes in some of the most damaged and desecrated environments in the world. As well as the obvious like the area around the Chernobyl nuclear reactor fire site and industrial desolation in Detroit there are some more surprising areas featured – the implications of alien trees spreading from an abandoned study centre in Tanzania for example.
The author sums up the book well in the introduction:
“I have spent two years travelling to places where the worst has already happened. These are landscapes wracked by war, nuclear meltdown, natural disaster, desertification … This should be a book of darkness, a litany of the worst places in the world. In fact, it is a story of redemption: how the most polluted spots on Earth … can be rehabilitated through ecological processes.”
That isn’t to say that Flyn lets us off the hook by saying everything will be ok, far from it. Overall though the resilience and adaptability of nature is the main focus and like another work I’ve reviewed on here The Accidental Countryside I like it for that.
Above all though Islands Of Abandonment is simply very good nature writing. The attention to detail is superb, and the research involved must have been extensive; I couldn’t fault it with regard to the subjects I had knowledge of beforehand. If you are interested in nature writing I very much recommend it.
(As ever my copy is available for recycling if anybody would like to read it)