Surrounded by sea and sky: the irresistible draw of islands

Holiday islands, desert islands, love islands, islands of eternal youth, siren islands, islands filled with screaming demons. Of all the earth’s topographic features, islands are the most elastic, the most adept at accommodating the wilder projections of our imagination. Why it should be so is a question that has exercised writers from D.H. Lawrence to Oscar Wilde, Annie Dillard to Adam Nicolson. The cultural geographer John Gillis identifies it as a curiously western trait, an extension of the metaphysical thirst for definition, the need to cut everything up into discrete entities in order to understand it. Island Dreams is Gavin Francis’s own contribution to the debate, based on his decades-long