I’ve got a bumper package of reviews today – back to the two-book review for one day only, as I’ve had a bit of a break so got to do some more reading (hooray), and also please pop and have a read of my review of the slightly behemothic but entirely necessary autobiography by Gordon Brown, “My Life, Our Times”, which I’ve reviewed for the ever-lovely Shiny New Books: more here.

Now, two books about islands, and they’re both predominantly blue, too! One is off my TBR: it had been on my wishlist for ages and was picked up last year, and the other was one I gave to my husband for his birthday before last, as he’s had a couple of trips to the Isles of Scilly.

Ben Fogle – “Offshore: In Search of an Island of my Own”

(26 May 2017, ex-library copy)

A journey around selected islands of the UK, pinned to Fogle’s apparent need to buy his own island, a plan he refines as he goes along, giving a structure to the separate stories. He puts the islands into groups or themes sometimes, and will then mention others, so our own favourite St Michael’s Mount crops up in the holy islands (so, rather unfortunately, does Caldey, now the centre of a horrible child abuse scandal: this book was written well before that broke and doesn’t feature the implicated people). He visits places large and small, from trying to get to tiny Rockall to spending time on the Isle of Man. It’s all pretty jolly, with a bit of history and Fogle’s trademark posh cheekiness thrown in; it was nice to see him mention his Castaway experience on Taransay and some of his fellow islandmates.

His adventures are mixed: he is mixed up with losing a helicopter (though thankfully no lives) and has some hairy moments, as well as getting banned from Shetland’s Up Helly Aa, but it’s a good adventure during which you learn some interesting facts. A useful epilogue brings us more up to date with some of the characters he’s met along the way. It was unfortunate that it was lacking a map, though.

Nigel Farrell – “An Island Parish: A Summer on Scilly”

(bought October ish 2016, borrowed from Matthew, who hasn’t quite finished it himself yet)

The man who brought us “The Village” (a book I enjoyed) and various other British community documentaries passes a bit less than a year but a bit more than a summer on the Isles of Scilly,  accompanied by a BBC film crew, although they’re not mentioned apart from the odd “we” after the beginning of the book. It’s very light and gossipy, although paying respect to the tragedies that have occurred and do occur while he’s there, and structured more like a novel or a soap opera than a straight report of the year, with the tragedies being broadly signposted and the details of people’s lives and loves – and finances – being carefully recorded.

We meet some interesting and resourceful people and particularly follow the arc of the new parish priest (hence the title), and it gives a varied picture of the different activities on the islands (back in 2007; I note the radio station is still going, which is cheering), but I wouldn’t imagine he was hugely popular on the islands once he’d published it. He’s also a bit rude about birdwatchers … An interesting read, though, and lovely to find out more about some places Matthew has spent time.

I’m moving on to Jenni Murray’s “A History of Britain in 21 Women” now. I know a few bloggers I read (and/or know) have read and reviewed this so was keen to get to it while it was still a hottish topic …