Compiled by Kirsty Logan
Harbour, John Ajvide Lindqvist
Island-dwellers Anders and Cecilia cross a frozen channel to take their daughter, Maja, to visit the lighthouse – but Maja disappears, impossibly, somewhere on the frozen-solid sea. This novel is bonkers, bizarre and rambling, but still oddly compelling and with some genuinely scary scenes. This line basically sums it up: "We no longer give people to the sea, but it takes them anyway."
The island represents a sort of timeless exile, a land of old gods and secret horrors; a place where the protagonist longs to leave, but cannot as the ghost of his lost child still haunts him.
The Last Kings of Sark, Rosa Rankin-Gee
Sark is a tiny carless Channel Island (also the last place in Europe to abolish feudalism), and when 21 year-old Jude arrives there to work as a private tutor, the summer weeks seem golden and endless. But as we all know, nothing gold can stay.
This island represents a glorious land of youth and honey – a place where secrets may lurk, but as long as you're young and in love, the real world will stay safely across the sea: "The sun on all of us, when we were young, when we were kings."
We Were Liars, E. Lockhart
Three rich cousins and their poor friend spend their summers in huge houses on an exclusive island, living the dream of swimming in the sea and getting secretly drunk and being generally young and rich and perfect. Until a terrible thing happens, which our unreliable narrator reveals piecemeal as the story unfolds.
The island here is a family home, a private world. It represents the separate world of childhood and family – the way that each family is its own island, and while we may visit other families' islands, they will never be our home.
The Vanishing Act, Mette Jakobsen
On a snow-covered island too tiny to appear on any maps live three people: 12 year-old Minou, her Papa, and Boxman the magician (as well as No-Name the dog). There used to be four people, but a year ago Minou's Mama walked into the sea and never returned. One day a dead boy washes up on the beach – does his appearance hold clues to Mama's disappearance?
The island here is a fantastical, fairytale construct; a place where reality doesn't intrude. It's a whimsical land of childhood and illogic, where even dark things like dead children or suicidal mothers have a twee glint to them.
Cold Skin, Albert Sanchez Pinol
Our unnamed narrator takes a position as a weather official on a remote island, out of the normal shipping lanes, along the coast of Antarctica – but when he arrives, his predecessor is missing and a strange man has barricaded himself in the lighthouse.
This is a Lord of the Flies-esque island; a remote battleground as cold and isolated as the inescapable land of Silent Hill, a Jungian descent into the primal. In short, it's philosophical, a bit blokey, and very weird.
Orkney, Amy Sackville
In this short and intense novel, literature professor Richard and his much younger wife (who remains unnamed) go to sea for their honeymoon. On the barren and beautiful Orkney, one of the 'Seal Islands', he begins work on a book about enchantment-narratives in literature, most all of them involving strange girls and women – but his new wife provides him with his own narrative of enchantment.
Here the island represents a land of myth and obsession; a place of courtly love where women are pale-haired mysteries and men are lost under their spell.
From the Mouth of the Whale, Sjón, Victoria Cribb (translation)
In 1635, poet and healer Jonas Palmason is banished to the barren isle of Iceland. While unicorn horns and the Virgin are worshipped, and both books and men are burnt, Jonas mourns for his three children while remembering his exorcism of a walking corpse and the frenzied massacre of whalers by local villagers.
This island is a land darkened by superstition and hardship, a clash of science and religion; a place as full of darkness and danger as magic and wonder. As Sjón says: "For in the end all of us islanders are nothing but the bastard half-siblings of Caliban."
Kirsty Logan lives in Glasgow with her fiancee, Annie, and their rescue puppy, Rosie. She works as a writer, book reviewer and mentor. Her novel, The Gracekeepers, is out now, and you can read a story from her collection The Rental Heart, here.
Her website is kirstylogan.com.
Header image by Sander van der Wel.