“I want to know how good at life I can be in a place where there are no distractions,” Nell Stevens explained to her mother on the phone. She had left her home in London to do a postgraduate degree at Boston University, and was now considering what to do during her “global fellowship” – a three-month study period in which students were encouraged to travel, explore, and write. “And where is that, exactly?” her mother asked. “The Falklands,” said Stevens. “I think it’s the Falklands.”
She doesn’t report her mother’s response – perhaps a puzzled silence. Stevens had no connection to the Falkland Islands, and had never been there before. She had no great interest in the islands’ history or culture, though she pretended otherwise on her fellowship application form. She had simply chosen the loneliest, most deserted and distraction-free place she could find, the aptly named Bleaker Island, a windswept outcrop of mud and rock in the southern Atlantic Ocean, part-time home to one farming couple, whose house she would be renting. Her only neighbours during her stay would be the flocks of penguins and beaky, vaguely sinister birds of prey called caracaras.