I AM AN ISLAND.
Tamsin has been dreaming of moving ever since she found a map of Scotland and pinned it up in the hallway of her tiny flat.
Nothing is keeping her in London. No family, no close friends, no ties at all if she is honest with herself. She decides it is time to make the move.
Tamsin has had enough of London,
“Sometimes, a life can feel tight, like a jumper you have long outgrown, that restricts your movement, so you feel an urge to stretch and be rid of it.”
So, when her husband, Rab, shows her an advert of a derelict, run-down island croft located on a tiny island off the coast of Scotland. Tamsin, although they have both said they would never move to one of the small islands in the Hebrides, is already seriously contemplating the move.
The choice is made when the neighborhood changes. Muggings become frequent, violence seems a daily occurrence. And any last remaining doubt is dispelled when Tamsin wakes to find their plants ripped up, their house spray-painted, and their fish floating dead on the surface of their pond next to the empty spray-cans.
But nothing could come close to prepare her for the difficulties that lay ahead of her in this new stage of her life.
This is a memoir mired in complete misery. But a memoir that also is incredibly inspirational.
This memoir is about one woman’s incredible strength in the face of adversity and a life that seems to be crumbling around her from every direction. A strength that she did not know she possessed. She faces a disintegrating marriage, domestic abuse, that starts as verbal then moves to physical, ostracism, bullying, death and resulting losses. Estrangement from her father, and a mother struggling with the ravages of dementia. At times it almost feels unbearable to keep reading. Just when you think things could not possibly get any worse, wait for the next page.
The racism and hostility that Tamsin faces is quite shocking and at times, along with the misogyny, it feels that we have been thrown back in time. It opens the readers eyes to different cultures who still seem to be living in a draconian past.
When she finds her husband has been cheating on her and he leaves her life for good, Tamsin is left in a misogynistic world of raising sheep, and all the difficulties that come with this world, on her own. She is ostracized by the local community who treat her as a pariah, sparing her nothing but hostility and abuse.
Tamsin faces these problems almost completely isolated and alone, apart from her friend, Cristall.
Cristall shows the power of true friendship and just how important such a friendship can be. Sometimes powerful enough to save a life.
“’I want you to know that I am here.’ Cristall holds my arm gently. ‘From know on I’ll be looking out for you, and you’ll be looking out for me.’”
The writing at times is beautiful and descriptive, especially in Act II. The prose is beautiful, metaphorical and poetical. While Tamsin is battling these problems, she describes it in sublime sentences. And this memoir will be popular for fans of lovely lyrical writing. Sometimes I just had to stop and admire a paragraph, a passage, a sentence.
Sometimes a book like this comes along and shows us what we are truly capable of when we at our lowest, sinking with no hope in sight. If even half of what Calidas writes about is true and not embellished or exaggerated, and there is no way I am suggesting this at all, then I take my hat off to her. An incredible woman.
A wonderful read. 4.5 Stars.
Tamsin Calidas is a writer and photographer living in the wilds of the Scottish Hebrides. She worked in various roles in advertising, publishing and the BBC before giving it all up in 2004 to move to a tiny, remote island in Scotland to run a derelict croft with sheep and horses.
Here is a link to The Malestrom with a wonderful interview with Calidas - https://themalestrom.com/interviews/tamsin-calidas-i-am-an-island/