Out of the Ice by Ann Turner

Prior to reading Ann Turner’s novel Out of the Ice, I read Helen Garner’s article ‘Regions of Thick-Ribbed Ice’, which gave me a vivid impression of the sense of disorientation (especially in relation to memory and time) often felt by those travelling in Antarctica. In Out of the Ice, Turner’s second novel, environmental scientist Laura Alvarado is starting to wonder if she is becoming ‘toasty’ after over a year at her post in Antarctica; especially after she is assigned to evaluate (for its potential as a museum) an abandoned whaling station on a remote Antarctic island. Laura begins to suspect that the station (an exclusion zone) is being accessed by unauthorised persons, and that someone is trying to communicate with her. The hostile work environment on the island and the distress of the local wildlife escalates her concern. Then, on a diving expedition, Laura becomes convinced that she sees a young boy calling out for help through a wall of ice.

Ann Turner was a welcome addition to the Australian literary scene last year with her impressive debut novel, The Lost Swimmer. Continuing in the thriller genre, Out of the Ice explores themes of professional misconduct, self-doubt, and emotional isolation, all set against stunning geographical backdrops. It took me a little while to warm (no pun intended!) to the plot but I found the novel gains momentum after the introduction of a pivotal character which opens out the story in relation to location and the stakes involved. The section in Nantucket, in which two gorgeously written minor characters shine, is especially memorable. I always feel a strong connection to Turner’s protagonists (despite, and sometimes because of, their flaws) and was particularly moved by the closing chapters as Laura solves the mystery of the island but also reaches her own emotional resolution.

Amanda Rayner works as a bookseller at Readings Carlton.