Anthony Stancomb and his wife are living in London and leading successful lives when an opportunity to move to the sunny isle of Croatia (an event previously explored in Under the Croatian Sun) arises. Their move presented many cultural encounters and challenges; and these encounters continue in Notes from a Very Small Island, which details their ongoing adjustments to Croatian culture.
One might think from such an outline and plot that events would be somewhat predictable in general scope - couple moves, faces cultural shock, and makes changes that lead to better adjustments and lives - but there's more going here on than personal relationships.
The story cultivates a refreshing immediacy by using an astute eye to closely examine what it means to fit into (or not) a very different world. The process of these observations betrays a wry sense of humour and not a little angst as it pinpoints just why it's hard to make connections in a small community.
Croatia - even one of its remotest isles - is not an easy society: there's a sense of readiness surrounding war, a vivid sense of lives lived under an umbrella of violence, and an equally vivid exploration of why efforts to fit in or bond with Croatians often fail.
Stancomb finds himself in the role of observer, contrasting his British world with that of Croatia and coming to understand the legacies of past and present pressures on the country as generations of sea-faring peoples transition to different lifestyles.
From the EU's effects on immigration to the tendencies of the new generation to eschew the physical labour that dominated and sometimes crippled the lives of their parents and ancestors, Notes from a Very Small Island provides a rollicking read that follows the author's encounters and observations and uses them to go far beyond most expat accounts of dislocation and eventual adjustment.
Through Stancomb's eyes, one gets a sense of Croatian history and cultural change, and the effects this has on the presence of expats and aliens from other countries. The result is far more than a travelogue: it's a delightful, often surreal observational piece that considers both the bigger picture of relocation and the effects it holds both in-country and on evolving connections.