This extraordinary book is compelling, lyrical, sad and yet hopeful. If you love descriptions of how plant and animal life takes over decaying buildings, this is the book for you. Part travel memoir, part nature writing, part ecology lesson, I’ve never read anything else like it.
Adventurous author Cal Flyn visits places which have been abandoned by their human inhabitants. For example, there’s Pripyat, which was evacuated due to the Chernobyl disaster. Detroit, with its urban blight and empty streets. The Caribbean island of Montserrat, where many people had to flee from a dormant volcano turned active. The buffer zone in Cyprus, where the population were forced to leave when the country was divided between the Greek and Turkish administrations. I admired the author’s willingness to take risks in the cause of literature. She wades into toxic waste-contaminated water, creeps into derelict buildings not knowing who or what she’ll find, sneaks through gaps in barbed wire.
This book also looks forward to a future without humans. Undoubtedly, it would be better from an environmental perspective, as can be seen by the return of endangered species to locations abandoned by humans. The terrible environmental costs of war and heavy industry will be evident for many years, in some cases far in to the future. Nature can never full recover, but it finds amazing ways to adapt.
Thank you to the publisher William Collins for the advance e-copy via NetGalley. The book will be published on 21st January.