Otis Chandler's Reviews > Islandia

Islandia by Austin Tappan Wright
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's review
Mar 11, 2011

it was amazing
bookshelves: fantasy, utopian
Recommended to Otis by: Tim
Read from January 26 to March 07, 2011 — I own a copy

An epic book - loved it, and wish I had found it before now. It does start a bit slow, but then really picks up. It's the story of a young man in 1905ish who graduates from Harvard and then is sent by his rich uncle to be the consul to the made up country of Islandia, which is closed to trade with the outside world.

Islandia is described so clearly you could almost believe it wasn't a made up country. You can feel it's beauty, it's pureness, and it's culure, coming through the pages.

Many of us went through idealistic phases in our 20's, and John Lang is no exception. He is trying to decide what will make him happy: Islandia, or a life in New York as a businessman. He is also searching for love, and seems to have a crush on every Islandian woman he meets!

Wright does an amazing job of describing what the Islandian culture is like. They are largely farmers: they work in the field all day, and their land provides what they need to eat and money to buy the rest. They don't have to work super hard, and have plenty of time for leisure. Their society closed and smaller, so people are very decent to each other. There aren't very many towns or central social hubs, so socializing is often accomplished by staying as a guest in someones farm house as you are traveling through the country, and you can do that totally unannounced.

Islandia is a utopia of sorts - they believe that progress in their culture will not lead to improving their lives. It is an interesting question - does technological progress actually end up making our lives better? Technology is supposed to improve the quality of our lives. We have better medicines, cleaner cities, we can communicate instantly around the world, and travel on cars and trains and planes.

But we lack the notion of a "home" that spans across generations or even multiple family units. Cousins and uncles and grandparents are only seen several times a year during family parties and holidays. In a sense, our society has shifted from being family centric to friend centric, as friends are the people we hang out with socially in the cities, where most of us live. This gives us often a richer variety of people and ideas to interact with, but the the connections are often not as close, and that is sad.
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Reading Progress

01/26 page 346
34.0% "Johnlang is a player - he's into every islandian woman he meets!"
01/27 page 546
53.0% "The counsel decides. I really didn't know which I wanted to happen either!"
02/08 page 657
64.0% "Apia!"
07/13 marked as: read
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