A City Out of Sight

I felt a shot of excitement when I spotted Ivan Southall's A City Out of Sight in the secondhand book shop -- To the Wild Sky: Book Two. I didn't even know there was a Book Two! 'The long-awaited continuation' said the cover blurb -- A City Out of Sight was published in 1984, sixteen years after the first book. Sixteen years is a long time to leave six young castaways languishing on a beach beside a crashed plane and a dead pilot; I couldn't wait to see what happened next.

Unfortunately, A City Out of Sight is... not very good. Each chapter is told from the point of view of a different character -- born-to-rule Gerald, secretly Aboriginal Carol, sensitive Colin, domestic Jan -- but they all share a similarly agitated, almost hysterical stream-of-consciousness style. The action takes place over a day or two, but there is a coda that suggests that the six young people make an implausibly terrific success of their dilemma.

I couldn't quite suspend my disbelief in the narrative of this story. Southall's most gripping books rely on their realism, even when their protagonists find themselves in the most extreme circumstances -- fire, flood, plane crash -- but A City Out of Sight stretched the extremes to breaking point, and the characters unfortunately began to seem like caricatures rather than the nuanced personalities of the earlier books.

In writing this post, I discovered a book by Gabrielle Carey called Falling Out of Love with Ivan Southall -- intriguing! I think I'll have to track that one down.

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