Wednesday, August 16, 2006

Island Memoirs: Sicily and Harris, Scotland

"Strange and magical things happen on islands," begins the blurb from John Rasmus, editor of National Geographic Adventure on the back cover of Seasons on Harris: a year in Scotlands Outer Hebrides by David Yeadon. Yeadon is a travel writer and visiting the Hebrides, west of Scotland, where Gaelic is spoken, Harris tweed is woven and ancient Celtic traditions survive, is his latest adventure. The author illustrated the book with charming line drawings throughout. Escaping to a remote island is a dream and a dread for people, as Yeadon says (p. 3) "[it] surely must be the fantasy of many of us -- to live simply on a remote island among warmhearted people, sampling strange and wonderful foods, and sipping, in this instance, the glorious malt whiskies so beloved by the Highlanders, and the world in general for that matter." But not a good fantasy for everyone, a Scottish judge once sentenced a criminal to Harris figuring it "would probably be a 'more effective punishment' than sending him to jail on the mainland." (p. xix of the Foreward) This combination of yearning but with dread and condescension towards island life is common, but Yeadon's story goes deeper than that and reflects admiration and awe for it's history and people.
Sicily, three thousand years of human history by Sandra Benjamin is another island history book on BHPL's New Non-fiction Shelves. "Sicily is know for its Mafia and its emigration," states the author (p. xiv Introduction.) That's a provocative statement about a fascinating island's history. Starting in 800 BC and ending with autonomy after World War II, Benjamin covers the sociopolitical history of the island.

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