The Valley at the Centre of the World by Malachy Tallack review – a vivid closeup of island life

From breakup to crofting … this restrained debut captures the emotional journey of a man who returns home to remote Shetland and the viewpoints of the people who live there

A writer’s career is like any other career: some people get going early, get lucky and go straight to the top; others take a little time to find their way; some of us are forever stopping off, becoming waylaid or detained; and some never follow an obvious path.

The Valley at the Centre of the World is Malachy Tallack’s third book, and even now it’s difficult to know which direction he is going to take. Originally from Shetland, he has returned again and again in his books to the question of islands and isolation. His first, 2015’s 60 Degrees North, was a classic young man’s travelogue, with added grit. His second, an illustrated guide to imaginary and invented islands, ...