Islands of Abandonment
‘The most precious hymn to resilience … written with a beautiful attention to detail … Wonderful ‘ ADAM NICOLSON, winner of the 2018 Wainwright Prize
‘Extraordinary … Just when you thought there was nowhere left to explore, along comes an author with a new category of terrain … Dazzling’ SPECTATOR
This is a book about abandoned places: ghost towns and exclusion zones, no man’s lands and fortress islands – and what happens when nature is allowed to reclaim its place.
In Chernobyl, following the nuclear disaster, only a handful of people returned to their dangerously irradiated homes. On an uninhabited Scottish island, feral cattle live entirely wild. In Detroit, once America’s fourth-largest city, entire streets of houses are falling in on themselves, looters slipping through otherwise silent neighbourhoods.
This book explores the extraordinary places where humans no longer live – or survive in tiny, precarious numbers – to give us a possible glimpse of what happens when mankind’s impact on nature is forced to stop. From Tanzanian mountains to the volcanic Caribbean, the forbidden areas of France to the mining regions of Scotland, Flyn brings together some of the most desolate, eerie, ravaged and polluted areas in the world – and shows how, against all odds, they offer our best opportunities for environmental recovery.
By turns haunted and hopeful, this luminously written world study is pinned together with profound insight and new ecological discoveries that together map an answer to the big questions: what happens after we’re gone, and how far can our damage to nature be undone?
‘A redemptive, celebratory pageant of a book, rich in reflection and revelation’
Gavin Francis, author of Island Dreams
‘Meticulous research, lyrical writing’
Louise Gray, author of The Ethical Carnivore
‘Fascinating, poignant, mysterious, surreal, compelling’
Keggie Carew, bestselling author of Dadland
'Filled with understanding and adventure, Islands of Abandonment is written with a beautiful attention to detail and a generous and imaginative frame of mind. The wonderful and surprising thing is how much reassurance and sense of possibility comes out of it at every turn. In that way, it is the most precious hymn to resilience' Adam Nicolson, winner of the 2018 Wainwright Prize 'Through meticulous research, lyrical writing and a nose for finding the biological and human oddballs, she lets each place tell its own unique story ... It made me think differently about nature, how it can survive in post-Apocalyptic environments, surprise the most eminent scientists and create beauty out of what we see as waste. Ultimately it shows how nature can heal a landscape broken by humans ... At a time when writing about nature can be depressing, a book that goes to the most depressing places on Earth and finds hope is a revelation' Louise Gray, author of The Ethical Carnivore 'Cal Flyn takes us on a mercurial expedition into the strange lands of human surrender. From toxic sludge to feral cattle to mutant fish to dystopian seas, out of the deathbeds of Lazarus we trip along, wide eyed. I cannot imagine a better guide. Thoughtful, careful, fascinating, poignant, mysterious, surreal, compelling, pace pitch-perfect. I could go on ... and on' Keggie Carew, bestselling and prizewinning author of Dadland 'A deeply compelling and evocative account of nature's powers of reclamation. A book that lives on in the mind long after reading' Sue Stuart-Smith, author of The Well Gardened Mind 'Bracing, eye-opening, comprehensive, and essential ... An energizing and important work. It affirms that nature is resilient, given half a chance, and should motivate all of us to try harder, even for the habitats that seem broken or hopeless' Jeff VanderMeer, bestselling author of the Southern Reach Trilogy
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