Our directory of things of interest

University Directory

THE SUMMER ISLES by Philip Marsden review

  • Written by  Jon Wright
  • Published in Books
THE SUMMER ISLES by Philip Marsden review
21 Nov
2019
by Philip Marsden • Granta • £20 (hardback)

How can you not be a little captivated when the island of Inishglora makes its appearance on the page? It is here, so legend tells, that the children of Manannan Mac Lir, god of the sea ‘lie buried in thin soil’. And be honest: aren’t you intrigued by mention of ‘The Tale of Macc Da Tho’s Pig’? Suffice to say, rival tribes attend a feast, oak trees are pulled up by the roots, and the whole affair ends in a bloodbath.

Stay connected with the Geographical newsletter!
signup buttonSince its inception in 1935, Geographical has reported on many thousands of global issues, allowing readers to look past the boundaries and borders of our world and take a broader perspective. In these turbulent times, we’re still committed to telling expansive stories from across the globe, highlighting the everyday lives of normal but extraordinary people. Stay informed and engaged with Geographical.

Get Geographical’s latest news delivered straight to your inbox every Friday!

Philip Marsden’s lovely book is full of such stories, dredged up from the rich tradition of ancient and medieval literature. They punctuate his account of a sea voyage (single-handed, for the most part) from Cornwall, up the Irish coast, and over to northwest Scotland – a place that has been percolating in Marsden’s memory for decades. Sailing aficionados need not be alarmed, however. There is much talk of halyards and sea-charts in the book, too: geology messes with magnet readings, tillers are gripped in choppy waters, and the roughest stretches of the journey sound terrifying. At times the coastline ‘looks like someone had taken a hammer to a slab of toffee.’ In such circumstances, ‘when the winds abeam and the seas are small, you become a willing hostage to the immediate.’ Practicalities trump the urge to meditate on history or the imaginative power of islands.

Best of all are the people Marsden encounters. Some are just plain gloomy: the old sea-dog in the pub who announces, menacingly, that ‘the shore is your enemy. Rather die in deep water than be battered to a corpse on the rocks.’ Some are resigned to their meagre lot: the stubbly chap in his isolated mobile home who thinks his surroundings are ‘bloody beautiful’. Must be hard in the winter, Marsden suggests. ‘Winters are bloody beautiful, too,’ comes the reply.

Click here to order The Summer Isles via Amazon

geo line break v3

Free eBooks - Geographical Newsletter

Get the best of Geographical delivered straight to your inbox by signing up to our weekly newsletter and get a free collection of eBooks!

geo line break v3

Julysub 2020

geo line break v3

Free eBooks - Geographical Newsletter

geo line break v3

geo line break v3

University of Winchester

geo line break v3

EDUCATION PARTNERS

Aberystwyth University University of Greenwich The University of Derby

TRAVEL PARTNERS

Ponant

Silversea

Travel the Unknown

NEVER MISS A STORY - Follow Geographical on Social

Want to stay up to date with breaking Geographical stories? Join the thousands following us on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram and stay informed about the world.

More articles in REVIEWS...

Books

Read on for our reviews of some of the latest…

Books

by Stefano Mancuso • Other Press • £19.49 (hardback)

Books

by Ben Buchanan • Harvard University Press • £22.95 (hardback)

Books

By Valerie Trouet • Johns Hopkins University Press • £20.00…

Books

Geographical's contributing geographers share their top books for 'staying connected'…

Books

by Chris Goodall • Profile Books • £9.99 (hardback)

Books

by Richard Smyth • Uniform Books • £12.00 (paperback)

Books

by Mark Jaccard • Cambridge University Press • £12.00 (paperback)

Books

by James Crowden • William Collins • £12.00 (hardback)

Books

Read on for our reviews of some of the latest…

Films

The Banff Mountain Film Festival is a yearly cinematic treasure…

Books

Read on for our reviews of some of the latest…

Books

by Paul Wapner • Polity Books • £9.99 (paperback)