Islands of Abandonment – Cal Flyn

Islands of Abandonment was written by Scottish author Cal Flyn in 2021 and nominated for many awards, especially The Baillie Gifford Prize for Non-Fiction Award. I expected that I would like this book, which attracted my attention in terms of its subject, but I can say that I was amazed by it because the author offered much more than my expectations. Islands of Abandonment became one of those beautiful books that I am grateful for all that I learned.


Islands of Abandonment is about abandoned places and how they changed after being abandoned. These abandoned areas include Cyprus, Chernobyl, Detroit, Tanzania, Scotland, France and more. Although the stories of each of them are different, it was truly amazing to read how nature recaptured these abandoned areas. The author visits every region mentioned in the book and touches on the history of these abandoned areas, telling how they looked and how they felt after they were abandoned.

Islands of Abandonment - Cal Flyn

Islands of Abandonment is one of those non-fiction books that is meticulously researched. Thanks to Cal Flyn’s beautiful narration, I learned about all the cities that were destroyed by war, weapons of war and industrial poisons and eventually abandoned by humans. And the most important thing is that I saw how these places healed and revived on their own without human intervention. Flyn makes it clear that we are temporary on this planet and that we will eventually suffer the consequences of what we do. However, the book also gives hope to people by telling them about the miracles of nature.

Islands of Abandonment got me thinking a lot about the dark and remarkable history of humanity and nature. On the other hand, I was amazed by Cal Flyn’s reference to literature and examples from various novels in almost every chapter while describing such a subject. As with any good non-fiction book, it showed me new books to read while inspiring me to learn more than it had to offer. I recommend it if you’re after reading a good non-fiction book. Enjoy!

Islands of Abandonment - Cal Flyn

Islands of Abandonment

Islands of Abandonment: 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?

More praise for Islands of Abandonment

‘Extraordinary … Just when you thought there was nowhere left to explore, along comes an author with a new category of terrain … Dazzling’ SPECTATOR

‘A haunting look at how nature fights back … Beautiful, evocative’ SUNDAY TIMES

‘Flyn’s brave, thorough book sets out to explore places where angels fear to tread … The result is fascinating, eerie and strange … There is some thrilling writing here’ KATHLEEN JAMIE, NEW STATESMAN


‘Exhilarating’ DAILY TELEGRAPH

Cal Flyn

Cal Flyn is a Scottish non-fiction writer. Her first book, Thicker Than Water, concerns her great-great-uncle Angus McMillan, who emigrated from Scotland to Australia and was one of the perpetrators of the Gippsland massacres. Her second book, Islands of Abandonment, is an exploration of places where nature is reclaiming the land once occupied by human activity, such as Canvey Wick in Essex, and Chernobyl.

It was short-listed for the 2021 Wainwright Prize for writing on global conservation. She has written for publications including Granta and The Guardian. In 2019 she was awarded a MacDowell fellowship, which she used to work on Islands of Abandonment. Flyn has an MA in experimental psychology (2005) from Lady Margaret Hall, Oxford, and an NCTJ certificate in newspaper journalism from Lambeth College.

Reading this book contributed to these challenges: 

A Non-Fiction a Month

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