Goodreads helps you keep track of books you want to read.
Start by marking “Island of the World” as Want to Read:
Island of the World
Enlarge cover
Rate this book
Clear rating
Open Preview

Island of the World

4.65  ·  Rating Details ·  689 Ratings  ·  129 Reviews
The Island of the World by Michael D. O'Brien Island of the World is the story of a child born in 1933 into the turbulent world of the Balkans and tracing his life into the third millennium. The central character is Josip Lasta, the son of an impoverished school teacher in a remote village high in the mountains of the Bosnian interior. As the novel begins, World War II is ...more
Hardcover, 850 pages
Published November 15th 2007 by Ignatius Press
More Details... edit details

Friend Reviews

To see what your friends thought of this book, please sign up.

Community Reviews

(showing 1-30)
filter  |  sort: default (?)  |  Rating Details
Jul 25, 2010 Marie rated it it was amazing
This is an extremely intense novel. Michael O'Brien has a knack for writing books that change the reader. This book is a marvelous, painful, and redemptive look at how love and suffering are two sides of one coin. He seems to capture the most sublime love and also the most unimaginable suffering, and somehow pack them into one character and make us understand how all of this could really exist in the history of one person. By the grace of God, suffering does not blot love out of his heart. This ...more
Oct 03, 2012 Helen rated it it was amazing
I think if I were a knight, I would be called "Sir Helen, Devourer of Books." Gone with the Wind? Read that baby in two days. The Heaven Tree Trilogy? I liked that one a lot more, so I slowed down... and still finished all three books in as many days. My point is, I read fast. There's nothing wrong with that, most of the time. And then, about a month ago, I went to college. It's hard to just sit down and read, when at any given moment three essays need writing and there's a test day after tomorr ...more
Mar 06, 2013 DROPPING OUT rated it it was amazing
Paul Elie, in his essay, "Has Fiction Lost Its Faith?" (New York Times, December 23, 2012) asked who are the writers today of serious spiritual content, and several persons wrote letters pointing out serious shortcomings in Elie's piece.

I would add one more writer, Michael D. O'Brien (who might have been omitted because Elie was writing about American fiction, whereas O'Brien is Canadian).

First of all, take a look at how many stars this book received, both on this site and on Amazon-dot-com. Eit
Jan 23, 2011 ladydusk rated it it was amazing
Borrowed from a Library. Hope to own.

This book is beautiful beyond words. Painful, excruciating at times. But even there the words are beautiful.

Joy, infinite joy. Sadness, deep sadness. It will make you think. I can't review such a book.

(view spoiler)
Cindy Rollins
Jan 13, 2014 Cindy Rollins rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2014
Beautifully written novel which could be titled The Odyssey of Josip Lasta. My most respected friends had urged this book on me for years but in the end I see that Providence kept the book waiting for me.

I learned much about happiness, personal fulfillment, and forgiveness from this poetic novel. Godliness with contentment is great gain.

Once again Homer provides THE outline. I hope to one day see the Adriatic.

I did not give this book 5 stars. There is a 5-star book within these 850 pages but a
Feb 11, 2012 Poiema rated it really liked it
The _Island of the World_ is not reached by swimming the shallows. This is a book with depth and pathos, a tale of a Croatian who suffered unspeakable horrors and loss as the winds of war engulfed his country. An 800+ page tome, the lengthy story begins in 1933, painting the picture of the idyllic and remote mountain village into which Josip Lasta is born. The author takes great pains not to sweep over this happy season quickly, imbedding vivid scenes of Josip's simple and wholesome childhood de ...more
Amanda Lamb
Jul 16, 2013 Amanda Lamb rated it it was amazing
There are your favorite books, the ones you read over and over again and you think of them fondly, like friends. And there are the best books you've ever read, the ones that stay with you even if you only read them once. The best books transcend barriers. The best books challenge and change the way you view your life and the world.

The Island of the World is one of, if not THE, best book I have ever read. And I imagine, despite it's mammoth size, it will be reread many times over the years and ma
Nelleke Plouffe
Jul 22, 2016 Nelleke Plouffe rated it it was amazing
Bosnia-Herzegovina. Croatia. Serbia. Yugoslavia.
Croats. Chetniks. Ustashe. Partisans. Communists.
Suffering. Massacres. Labour camps.

Having read this book, I am only marginally less confused about the history of the former Yugoslavia, but then a comprehensive view of the different parties and factions involved is not its point. This is the inner life of one person, Josip, an unusually bright and spiritually perceptive boy who grows up in the midst of unimaginable suffering. As the horror of what
Jun 10, 2012 Balika rated it really liked it
Wow... a monstrosity of a book (Clan of the Cave Bear size!). And it sucked me in, with its story of a quaint Bosnian mountain village torn apart by war and the boy who made it out, denounced God and traveled to Croatia (He was a Croat living in Bosnia). Lovely story, lovely imagery- thoroughly enjoyable. But in the first few pages I realized that the MAIN story was about losing one's Catholic religion and finding it again. And I was OK with that, since I love Elie Wiesel for the same topic. BUT ...more
Jan 09, 2016 Beth rated it it was amazing
I couldn't put this book down. I have the sunburn to prove it! - first reading, 2012?

My second reading of Island of the World did not disappoint. How much I had forgotten, perhaps because I read it so fast the first time through. The themes of forgiveness and resurrection, suffering and humility, wonder, and the connections of humans to each other across time, age, and culture make this book a favorite. It is also just good storytelling. I cried again. I agonized again over the pain of Josip's m
Lori Hendrickson
Jan 23, 2013 Lori Hendrickson rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites
There aren't enough stars to rate this book highly enough. It is in my top 3 all time favorites (possibly #1). The main character, Josip Lasta, is still with me, long after I turned the last page. He is like a brother or even a son that I have loved deeply and lost. The author, Michael O'Brien took the most tender care of me, as a reader, while I stood witness to the many hardships and unspeakable horrors wrought by the evil that dwells in and around mankind here on earth. I was inspired and enc ...more
4/23/2010 - Such a beautiful novel. I felt so many emotions throughout this beautiful story. I never want an O'Brien novel to end...this one more-so than any other. Easily one of the best stories I've ever read. Michael O'Brien is without question, the greatest Catholic novelist alive. Buy it and have your hair blown back - you'll never forget this book.

12/7/11 - updated review. Just wanted to add, after reading all O'Brien novels to date - this is his greatest work. Over a year and half has pas
Stephanie Seefeldt
Feb 05, 2013 Stephanie Seefeldt rated it it was amazing
#1 most moving and important fiction I've ever read. Characters were so perfectly written that I found myself Googling them to see if they were real. More soon.
Jeremy Barker
Feb 13, 2012 Jeremy Barker rated it it was amazing
So I have fallen into a pattern with my book reviews of beginning by sharing the publisher’s product description first and then sharing my thoughts or summary of the book afterward. I feel like I should break from that pattern for this one. I will include it below if you want to read it here.

This book is of a different style than many that I have typically read. My wife had it recommended to her and I got to experience watching her read it. She was completely enthralled with the book (read her r
May 14, 2013 Darko rated it it was amazing
What mostly amazes me in this astonishing book is the fact that a Canadian has so profound understanding of history of Croatian people throughout previous century. If a Croat would write such a book many would say it's propaganda. I hope it's easier to accept this book from a non-Croat as truthful account of sufferings that Croatian people went through and are still going through enduring external violence so crafty that it achieve not only external goals, but it can influence the very soul of m ...more
John O'Brien
Oct 12, 2015 John O'Brien rated it it was amazing
I'm rating my father's novels here as a fan. But I think I'm going to decline writing a review for now, due to my kinship with the author. Suffice to say, I look forward to his books as much as anyone else, and find them deeply moving. I am not unaware of their flaws, but their strengths surpass them, and so abundantly, that I find them almost moot. If I find myself choked up and in tears only once in a novel, I tell him it's not his best work. I'm normally moved at a deep level 3-4 times per no ...more
Jul 13, 2015 Marina rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: i-own
Prekrasna knjiga. Knjiga o čovjeku koji je toliko toga proživio i doživio a svojim postupcima, razmišljanjima te ostavlja bez riječi...Kao što sam negdje pročitala: "Zlo ih je pržilo, oni umjesto da odgovore mržnjom, odgovaraju dobrim i nadom u bolje sutra."
Knjigu je tako tesko bilo ispustati iz ruke, a onda kad bi je zatvorila tesko sam se vracala u stvarnost. Tesko je bilo ostati ravnodusan na toliku bol, patnju, tugu. Ostati svoj, vjeran sebi, Bogu, onome sto je ispravno, biti ponizan, ne po
Oct 22, 2014 Mimi rated it really liked it
The pages just flew by on this amazingly beautiful and absorbing story of the Balkans in the 20th century, told through the eyes of Josip, born in 1933. Beautiful meditations on encountering Christ in those around us, amazing imagery, and wonderful discussion of faith and the sacramental life. The thing that pulled it down from being a five star read is that it is *very* Croatian, and as such anti-Serb, and that the author had a bit of a tendency to veer into polemics. However, these slight quib ...more
Mar 20, 2016 Michelle rated it it was amazing
This is a book that can be read and reread and still new things would be uncovered. I am a little speechless as I'm trying to write about how it affected me to read this. At times the heartache over what the main character was going through was more than I wanted to have to bear. The way he continued to choose life and eventually came back to Christ (resulted in healing and peace) made me, as a reader, feel enveloped with hope that no matter what I'm called to bear in this life, if I cling to Je ...more
Nov 28, 2008 Carol rated it it was amazing
I wish I could give this book 6 stars, it was so amazing. Historical, spiritual, poetical - the scenes of the story will remain with me forever. This has become one of my favorite books of all time.
Apr 05, 2016 Cole rated it it was amazing
The book ends, and I hear in the future the holy horns of the multitude blasting out their welcome to a traveler come home, a pilgrim without burden. Let the island of the world float in the great sea of existence. Let the lastavica fly ever upward. Long live Josip Lasta.
Nov 19, 2010 Sarah rated it it was amazing
A story of how brutal circumstances cannot break the beauty of a heart that loves God. You will ache in reading this book, but the ending ache is that of hope. One of the most beautiful novels I've read.
Rick Slane
Jun 06, 2016 Rick Slane rated it really liked it
None of my friends have read this book. It's fiction that reads like a memoir. I found the Christianity understated. Although it on the whole is not meant to be humorous toward the end it rewarded me with a belly laugh.
Rob Jones
Aug 29, 2016 Rob Jones rated it it was amazing
Shelves: best-of-2016
Can an 833 page book be too short? When I finished this story I was tempted to turn back to page one and start the journey over again. Five plus stars.
Jan 24, 2016 Sharon rated it it was amazing
This was hard to read. Hard to put down. And hard to be done with. I'm not sure I have ever been THIS challenged by a story.
Feb 25, 2016 Juanita rated it it was amazing
This may be my favourite book of the year. I'd like to go back and reread it soon, that's how beautiful it is.
Andrew Armstrong
Mar 10, 2008 Andrew Armstrong rated it really liked it
Great stuff! A bit long, but O'Brien has a very nice style... A quick read for all its 800+ pages!
Jan 25, 2014 Brian rated it it was amazing
Shelves: fiction, 2014-reading
Penetrating, powerful, philosophically deep, and life-altering. Well-conceived and developed, it would be an understatement to say that this book had an impact on me.
Jan 23, 2010 Aimee rated it it was amazing
Shelves: catholic-books
This book will change you.
Sep 24, 2010 Mateus rated it it was amazing
I feel bad rating this book with the others since it deserves more stars than I can bestow.
« previous 1 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 next »
There are no discussion topics on this book yet. Be the first to start one »
  • The Spear: A Novel of the Crucifixion
  • The Nun's Story
  • Pierced by a Sword
  • Lord of the World
  • In This House of Brede
  • Spanish Fly
  • Mr. Blue
  • A Postcard from the Volcano: A Novel of Pre-War Germany
  • The Song At The Scaffold
  • The Ballad of the White Horse
  • Tales of the North
  • The Diary of a Country Priest
  • The Clan of the Cave Bear, the Valley of Horses, the Mammoth Hunters, the Plains of Passage, The Shelters of Stone (Earth's Children, #1-5)
  • River Rising
  • Catholics
  • Toward the Gleam
Michael D. O'Brien is a Roman Catholic author, artist, and frequent essayist and lecturer on faith and culture, living in Combermere, Ontario, Canada.
More about Michael D. O'Brien...

Share This Book

“ without coffee is not really life.” 26 likes
“Life without coffee is not really life.” 16 likes
More quotes…