The Man Who Loved Islands by DH Lawrence from The Virgin and the Gipsy & Other Stories (Wordsworth Classics, 2004)
I’m in equal parts fascinated and annoyed by this short story. Fascinated because DH Lawrence does paint a clear picture of a man living on an island and how he gets along with it and it’s a splendid use of words and I really enjoy the writing. Annoyed because it feels as if it’s a really long metaphor for something, and I can’t for the life of me figure out what it is.
The story is about a man who, as the title says, loves islands. He’s infatuated with the idea of owning one for himself and eventually manages to rent one. The man moves there with a number of staff to keep him company and for a while, he’s content and happy. Then things start falling apart, people leave or he drives them away.
He moves to a smaller island, with only a couple of people to keep him company, and for a while that’s fine as well, but eventually, it goes the same way. Finally, he ends up on a tiny island with no connections and nothing but a cat and some sheep to keep him company.
Except that also doesn’t make him happy, it rather makes him paranoid and not just a hermit but a hermit who has lost his mind and doesn’t eat or sleep properly and cowers in his hut and is relieved when the cat decides to not come for her porridge in the morning.
It’s a strange story, but oh the scenery porn that man can write! Coming from Bohuslän in Sweden, famous for rocky islands off the coast, I can relate to the geography in the story … in a way. I didn’t grow up on one of those islands, but they were never very far away. Being a loner myself, I can also relate to the man, except I would be distraught if my feline companion didn’t turn up one day, and I’d go looking for her. But still.
Having exactly what you want doesn’t always mean you’ll be happy. Being alone might not make you happy either. Maybe a middle ground is that which should be aimed for? Is that what it’s about? Anyway. I don’t have the book here, or I would give an excerpt. Maybe I’ll come back to the post and add it later. (UPDATE 2021: Nope. Haven’t and won’t.) DH Lawrence’s way with trees and craggy rocks and rolling waves is spectacular, even if the actual story is a bit strange.
This is my fifth review for the DH Lawrence Challenge 2010.