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.
Islands of Abandonment 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?
Cal Flyn is an author and journalist from the Highlands of Scotland. Previously she has been a reporter for both The Sunday Times and The Daily Telegraph, and a contributing editor at The Week magazine. Cal holds a MA in Experimental Psychology from Lady Margaret Hall, Oxford. Her first book, Thicker Than Water, was a Times book of the year and dealt with the colonisation of Australia and questions of inherited guilt.
"[...] Islands of Abandonment is thoughtfully and sensitively written, at turns haunting and hopeful, and prompts us to rethink what we mean by wild and natural. [...]"
– Peter Marren, British Wildlife 32(6), May 2021
"Extraordinary [...] Just when you thought there was nowhere left to explore, along comes an author with a new category of terrain – not scenes where man has never trod, but places where he has been and gone [...] Dazzling"
"Exhilarating [...] A story of the extraordinary resilience of life in some of the most desolate, ravaged and polluted landscapes on earth"
– Daily Telegraph
"Fascinating and brain-energising. It is full of detail and colour that sends one googling, to look up pictures and find out more. It is also an optimistic book [...] I'll cling to that bit of unfashionable hope"
– The Times
"Brave, thorough [...] The result is fascinating, eerie and strange [...] There is some thrilling writing here, a fine way with the telling detail, and a plea for radical revisioning of what we mean by "nature" and "wild""
– Kathleen Jamie, New Statesman
"Consistently rewarding, eloquently provocative [...] a brave book, in more ways than one"
– New Humanist
"Scintillating [...] she writes beautifully [...] Flyn's research is meticulous, but what makes the book so extraordinary is the originality of her thought"
– The Herald
"A thoughtful, fascinating read"
"Brilliant [...] Flyn paints vivid pictures [...] both clear and compelling"
– Daily Telegraph, five stars
"Filled with understanding and adventure [...] 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"
– Adam Nicolson
"Meticulous research, lyrical writing [...] It made me think differently about nature [...] A revelation"
– Louise Gray, author of The Ethical Carnivore
"Cal Flyn takes us on a mercurial expedition into the strange lands of human surrender [...] Thoughtful, careful, fascinating, poignant, mysterious, surreal, compelling, pace pitch-perfect. I could go on [...] and on"
– Keggie Carew, author of Dadland