Penguin Island is written in the style of a sprawling 18th and 19th century history book, concerned with grand metanarratives, mythologizing heroes, hagiography and romantic nationalism. It is about a fictitious island of great auks that exists off the northern coast of Europe. The history begins when a wayward Christian missionary monk accidentally lands on the island and sees the great auks as a sort of Greek pre-Christian pagan society. Partly blind, he mistakes the animals for people and baptizes them. This mistake causes a problem for The Lord who normally only allows people to be baptized, so he resolves it by converting the great auks to people and giving them a soul.