Reading Inspiration: 10 Books Set On Islands

Compiled By Jessamy Baldwin

Maybe it’s because I come from an island (Guernsey), but I’ve always been drawn to dots on the earth – whether that’s with reading, art, travel… you name it, I’m into it. There’s something equally beautiful and mysterious, romantic and unknown about islands, wouldn’t you agree?

On that note, here are my favourite 10 books set on islands for you too get stuck into. Enjoy!

  1. The Light Between Oceans by ML Stedman (2012)

A New-York Times bestseller and now a major movie starring Michael Fassbender and Alicia Vikander, the book follows the story of Tom, a lighthouse keeper and his wife Isabel, who live on Janus Rock island off the coast of Western Australia. One day, a boat washes ashore with a dead man and crying baby inside – a gift that offers the hope of a future they’ve longed for. But the consequences of their actions may be more far-reaching than they could have ever imagined. Only years later do they discover the devastating consequences of the decision they made that day – as the baby’s real story unfolds. This is a story of right and wrong, and how sometimes they look the same.

  1. Shutter Island by Dennis Lehane (2003)

The year is 1954. U.S. Marshal Teddy Daniels and his new partner, Chuck Aule, have been sent to Shutter Island, home of Ashecliffe Hospital for the Criminally Insane, to investigate the disappearance of a patient. Multiple-murderess Rachel Solando is loose somewhere on the barren island, despite having been kept in a locked cell under constant watch since her arrival. As an enormous hurricane hits the island, a strange case takes on even darker, more sinister hues – with traces of radical experimentation, shocking surgeries and suspicious decisions. No one is safe and no one is going to escape Shutter Island unscathed. In fact, nothing at Ashecliffe Hospital is what it seems. Even if you’ve watched the Leonardo DiCaprio Hollywood blockbuster version of this story, the book is well worth a read.


  1. Captain Corelli’s Mandolin by Louise de Bernieres (1994)

Captain Corelli’s Mandolin is set in the early days of World War Two, before Mussolini invaded Greece. Dr Iannis practices medicine on the island of Cephalonia, where he lives with his beautiful daughter, Pelagia. Once the Italians do invade, life isn’t so bad – at first. The officer in command of the Italian garrison is the cultured and eccentric Captain Antonio Corelli, whose most precious possession is his mandolin. It isn’t long before Corelli and Pelagia are involved in a passionate love affair. But love is complicated enough in wartime, even when the lovers are on the same side. For Corelli and Pelagia, it becomes increasingly difficult to negotiate the minefield of personal and political allegiances.

  1. The Summer Book by Tove Jansson (1972)

An elderly artist and her six-year-old granddaughter Sophia spend a summer together on a tiny island in the gulf of Finland after Sophia’s mother dies. As the two begin to adjust to each other’s fears, whims and yearnings for independence, a fierce yet understated love emerges. Full of brusque humour, and wisdom, The Summer Book is a profoundly life-affirming story. Together they amble over coastline and explore the forest, build boats from bark, create a miniature Venice and write a fanciful study of local bugs. They discuss things that matter to both young and old: life, death, the nature of God and of love. “On an island,” says the grandmother, “everything is complete.”


  1. And Then There Were None by Agatha Christie (1939)

First, there were ten – a curious assortment of strangers summoned as weekend guests to a private island off the Devon coastline. Their host, a mysterious millionaire unknown to all of them, is nowhere to be found. All that the guests have in common is a wicked past they’re unwilling to reveal – and a secret that will seal their fate. For each has been marked for murder. One by one they fall prey. Before the weekend is out, there will be none. And only the dead are above suspicion.


  1. The Island by Heather Graham (2005)

On a weekend vacation, Beth Anderson is unnerved when a stroll on the beach with her niece reveals what appears to be a skull. As a stranger approaches, Beth panics and hides the evidence. But when she later returns to the beach, the skull is gone. Determined to find solid evidence to bring to the police, Beth digs deeper into the mystery of the skull and everywhere she goes, Keith Henson, the stranger from the beach, seems to appear. He claims to be keeping an eye on her safety, but Beth senses other motives. Then a body washes ashore, and Beth begins to think she needs more help than she bargained for. Because investigating is a dangerous game, and someone wants to stop Beth from playing.


  1. The Search by Nora Roberts (2010)

To most people, Fiona Bristow seems to have an idyllic life—a quaint house on an island off Seattle’s coast, a thriving dog-training school and a challenging volunteer job performing Canine Search and Rescue. Not to mention her three intensely loyal Labs. But Fiona got to this point by surviving a nightmare. Several years ago, Fiona was the only survivor of the Red Scarf Killer, who shot and killed Fiona’s cop fiancé and his K-9 partner. On Orcas Island, Fiona has found the peace and solitude necessary to rebuild her life. But all that changes. A copycat killer has emerged out of the shadows, and he wants to reclaim the woman who slipped out of his hands.


  1. Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children by Ransom Riggs (2011)

A mysterious island. An abandoned orphanage. A strange collection of curious photographs. A horrific family tragedy sets sixteen-year-old Jacob journeying to a remote island off the coast of Wales, where he discovers the crumbling ruins of Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children. As Jacob explores its abandoned bedrooms and hallways, it becomes clear that the children were more than just peculiar. A spine-tingling fantasy illustrated with haunting vintage photography, Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children will delight adults, teens, and anyone who relishes an adventure in the shadows.


  1. Wide Sargasso Sea by Jean Rhys (1966)

Born into an oppressive, colonialist society, Creole heiress Antoinette Cosway meets a young Englishman who is drawn to her innocent sensuality and beauty. But soon after their marriage, rumours of madness in her family poison his mind against her. Caught between his demands and her own precarious sense of belonging, Antoinette is inexorably driven towards madness, and her husband into the arms of another novel’s heroine. This classic study of betrayal, a seminal work of postcolonial literature, is Jean Rhys’s brief, beautiful masterpiece.


  1. On the Island by Tracy Garvis-Graves.

When thirty-year-old English teacher Anna Emerson is offered a job tutoring 17-year-old T.J. Callahan at his family’s summer rental in the Maldives, she accepts without hesitation; a working vacation on a tropical island trumps the library any day. Anna and T.J. are en route to join T.J.’s family in the Maldives when the pilot of their seaplane suffers a fatal heart attack and crash-lands in the Indian Ocean. Adrift in shark-infested waters, their life jackets keep them afloat until they make it to the shore of an uninhabited island. Now Anna and T.J. must work together to survive. As days turn to weeks, and then months, the castaways encounter plenty of other obstacles, including violent tropical storms, the many dangers lurking in the sea and the possibility that T.J.’s cancer could return. Anna also begins to wonder if the biggest challenge of all might be living with a boy who is gradually becoming a man. A love story with a twist!

Sources: Good Reads (

This articleappeared in The Guernsey Press on 23 September 2017.

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