Concrete Island

By J.G. Ballard,

Book cover of Concrete Island

Book description

On a day in April, just after three o'clock in the afternoon, Robert Maitland's car crashes over the concrete parapet of a high-speed highway onto the island below, where he is injured and, finally, trapped. What begins as an almost ludicrous predicament soon turns into horror as Maitland-a wickedly modern…

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Why read it?

2 authors picked Concrete Island as one of their favorite books. Why do they recommend it?

This castaway story, about a man trapped on a concrete island under and between converging freeways on the outskirts of London, still stands the test of time.

I found it especially resonant during the imposed isolation of the global pandemic; all of us each marooned in our living rooms. The protagonist, architect Robert Maitland, has to learn to survive and thrive in reduced and restricted circumstances, and he can’t buy or build his way out of it.

When he finally discovers a way off the island he no longer really wants to leave, reminding us that we are sometimes most…

I’ll never look at a highway median strip the same way again. The oldest entry on my list, a classic that describes in tortuous detail the epitome of urban alienation. The urban prison within which the Robinson Crusoe-ish protagonist finds himself is an external setting created by our impersonal, uncaring urban life, but it is also an inner state of mind of semi-comforting psychological detachment. Could we city-dwellers all be urban castaways, no matter our physical location? Ballard’s theme of cars perpetuating dehumanization in Concrete Island followed his urban-focused novel Crash published the previous year. 

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