The Last Island by Adam Goodheart -An Engaging Non Fiction

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The mystery around the Andaman Islands have been intriguing the readers and explorers for eons. Despite the advanced technology in information and exploration, the indigenous tribes in the islands have been at bay for the laymen to access. As ironic as it sounds, even the armed forces failed to access the isolated islands of the archipelago. The Last Island by Adam Goodheart draws an extrapolated image of the expeditions to the North Sentinel Island of Andaman and Nicobar.

The Last Islands by Adam Goodheart


North Sentinel Island is a tiny speck of land in the Indian Ocean, inhabited by a reclusive tribe that has almost no contact with modernity. Located on the fringes of the Andaman and Nicobar archipelago, it caught the attention of the world in 2018, when a young, Bible-clutching American missionary tried to visit the island and was killed by bow-and-arrow-wielding islanders. Described by Survival International as ‘the most isolated people in the world’, the Sentinelese aren’t the only reclusive tribe to survive into the twentyfirst century but are the only ones to have their own island. This archipelago was home to many such isolated tribes until the establishment of a British penal colony in the mid-nineteenth century, marking the start of a series of ultimately tragic relationships between the indigenes and the colonizers. The Sentinelese, stubbornly resistant to outsiders—remained and—continue to remain—independent. The Last Island offers a compelling tale of violence and colonialism worthy of a Joseph Conrad novel. Part travelogue, part narrative history, it is based on historian Adam Goodheart’s two expeditions, more than twenty years apart, to the archipelago, his insightful interviews with Indian anthropologists, particularly T.N. Pandit, who established friendly contact with the Sentinelese, and his deep dive into colonial and other records. At its centre is a fascinating meditation on North Sentinel Island, the final holdout in a completely connected world—with modernity lapping at its shores.

My Review

The book, despite being a non fiction is narrated in a fast paced mode, with thrilling and heart wrenching anecdotes of how the earlier expedition to the archipelago has ended up in a tragic demise and further associations that changed the lives of various tribes of Andamans. The author, along with hie personal memoir, also shares the interviews and research on other explorers. The backstory to establish how and why the Sentinelese tribe has become the most hostile lot is thrilling yet shocking.

The past experiences

The repercussions of the past expeditions on the lives of various tribes would force us to hang our heads in shame, as a developed human race. How the predecessors approached the tribes in inadvertently or deliberately selfish moves, is tough to digest. The author has drawn parallels to the experiences of the various tribes and the Sentinelese and how it could be assessed as a smart move by keeping the people from the mainland away from the island.

The mixed culture

In a miraculous turn of events, TN Pandit managed to break the ice and established an amicable association with the tribe. His experiences gives us major insights into the lives of the the Sentinels, which was a far cry from the previous expeditions. He continued his associations while maintaining a respectful distance from the tribes and their internal politics.

Overall the books is an engaging read about the history, geography and anthropology of the Andamans while simultaneously entertaining the readers by not sounding like a textbook material.

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