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Summary

The Sunday Times' Science and Environment Book of the Year 2021

Winner of the Sunday Times Young Writer of the Year Award

Shortlisted for the Baillie Gifford Prize 2021

Shortlisted for the Wainwright Conservation Award 2021

Shortlisted for the British Academy Book Prize 2021

Shortlisted for the Highland Book Prize 2021

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?

©2021 Cal Flyn (P)2021 HarperCollins Publishers Limited

Critic reviews

"The most precious hymn to resilience...written with a beautiful attention to detail.... Wonderful." (Adam Nicolson, winner of the 2018 Wainwright Prize)

"A redemptive, celebratory pageant of a book, rich in reflection and revelation...beautifully written.... I've no doubt torrents of accolades await." (Gavin Francis, author of Island Dreams)

"Meticulous research, lyrical writing.... Ultimately it shows how nature can heal a landscape broken by human.... 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)

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What listeners say about Islands of Abandonment

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  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars

A Must Read

Yes indeed. A must read for anyone whose concerned at the future of the planet.
Flyn's book is exceptionally well written. It is also one which even whilst surveying some of the sites of desolation around the world, strikes an optimistic perspective on our potential futures.
I'm also pleased I bought the audio version, since Flyn reads her text well and with passion.

5 people found this helpful

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Great book

Cal writes the most beautiful prose, bewitching and almost lyrical.
Atmospheric, and so enjoyable . Brilliant stuff , informative , thought provoking and stays with you long after you have listened . Thoroughly recommended !

2 people found this helpful

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Disapointing

This author who also reads this book should not write words she cannot pronounce ie. deshabille .
She is fond of prose and description but gives very little information . Quite tedious .

2 people found this helpful

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A beautiful, poetic and uplifting book

I absolutely love this book and have listened to it several times over and will continue to listen to it over & over. It is an ode to the brilliance of the natural world that provides a positive perspective on the power of the nature to recover from the atrocities of man made climate change. The writing is wonderfully descriptive and read in such a soothing & comforting tone that I want to listen to again & again. What a superb and unique gem of a book!

1 person found this helpful

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Good but probably a better read

I think I would enjoyed reading this book rather than listening to it - a bit of a dry listen to be honest although fascinating and well researched

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Authors are rarely narrators

Unfortunately the author sounds bored with her own work. Good for late evening listening.. shame - a professional narrator could have made this marvellous. I gave up and read it instead to get rid of the drone. Much better.

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an intriguing and thought provoking work t

this doesn't disappoint and performed v well by the author. I learned a lot about specifics that will lead to further investigation 🔎

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Great book, not so great narration

If you can get over the very flat performance, the book is extremely interesting and covers a lot of different ground. I thoroughly enjoyed it.

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essential reading/listening

a raft of factual information presented as stories that are difficult to put down and are fascinating. What we are doing to our planet and how nature fights back.

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beautiful 😍

Wonderfully written, well researched and I love her voice. One of the best audiobooks I've ever heard.

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  • Jonathan
  • 02-02-21

Stunning book

This is a travelogue in which the author takes us to abandoned places and with meticulous research gives insights into recent history. Fascinating and enjoyable and beautifully written.