The Britannias: An Island Quest by Alice Albinia tells the story of Britain’s islands and how they are woven into its collective cultural psyche.

Longlisted for the 2024 Women’s Prize for Non-Fiction judge Kamila Shamsie had this to say about the book; ‘A beautifully written account of 5000 years and many of Britain’s Islands. It covers and explores the histories in plain sight and those out of view. And of course, those out of view are very often to do with the lives of women.’

To find out more about the book we spoke to Alice about her writing, research and current reads.

The Britannias by Alice Albania

The Britannias

by Alice Albinia

Find out more

Describe your book in one sentence as if you were telling a friend.

A female detective story through British islands and mythology which knocks the centre out

Did you have any revelation moments when writing your book? When the narrative and your objectives all fell into place?

Yes, two. The first when I realised about a third of the way through researching and writing that many of the historical and contemporary figures I was writing about were men, and that I needed to challenge both my own acculturation and that of the world around me, and look again. Secondly when I opened an anthology of early literature from the British Isles and came across a poem about the islands of women. That was the detective adventure began.

What is the one thing you’d like a reader to take away from reading your book?

That we can see differently.

Which other female non-fiction writers inspire you and why? Any particular title?

Kathleen Jamie for her elliptical portraits of everyday life.
Rebecca Solnit for the expansiveness of her thinking.
Maggie Nelson The Argonauts (I feel like this book opened my mind and changed my life)
Silvia Federici, Caliban and the Witch (I love this way of writing history/literature/feminism)
Barbara G Walker, A Woman’s Encyclopaedia of Myths and Secrets (there is some amazing stuff in there)

What is the best piece of writing advice you have ever received?

Don’t be afraid.

What book is currently on your nightstand?

Max Liboiron, Pollution is Colonialism