Island by Aldous Huxley — New Review

Third in the ‘books recommended by Michael’ series (and second in the sub-series of ‘lesser known books by famous authors’) is Island by Aldous Huxley. Michael is staunch in his opinion that you shouldn’t read the blurb of a book, so I didn’t, and as such was expecting Island to be political in the style of Brave New World — which I haven’t read. Island is more philosophical, going into some detail about Buddhist practices. Reading about mindfulness and meditation, I found Island very relevant to contemporary interests, and was surprised to find it was published in 1962. It must have been very ahead of its time!

Given the nature of spiders, webs are inevitable. And given the nature of human beings, so are religions.

Island, Aldous Huxley

The descriptions early on are beautiful, and there was so much metaphor and imagery that it almost tempted me to write up an essay plan — something I haven’t done in over a decade! (In case you’re curious, my focus would’ve been on descriptions of sound, specifically music and laughter.) I legitimately had to pause my reading because I was afraid I was going to get through the book ‘too fast’.

He remembered it all — the white sail curved by the wind into the likeness of a huge magnolia petal, the water sizzling at the prow, the sparkle of diamonds on every wave crest, the troughs of wrinkled jade.

Island, Aldous Huxley

Once Will had his leg seen to and was up and about, Island started to lose me. Even though I visited Aramavati Buddhist Monastery during the period I was reading, I found that Island‘s explanation of Buddhist beliefs didn’t hold my attention. If anything, it was mostly telling me things I already knew, and I wanted there to be more character interaction or development. There isn’t much of a plot, it’s almost a travelogue in style, albeit a fictional one.

I didn’t spend a lot of time thinking about how the book would end as I was reading. The ending — which is not a little bleak — therefore came as a somewhat unpleasant shock. I’m interested to see what Michael’s going to say about it when I get back from holiday.


Next, I’ll be reading The High Mountains of Portugal by Yann Martel.

Rating: 2 out of 5.