The Fifth Season
by Philip Salom
Transit Lounge, $39.99 pb, 288 pp
In Western culture’s calendar year, is there some hidden fifth season, and if there is, what is it? The main character of Philip Salom’s fifth novel, a writer called Jack, asks himself near the end of the book whether the fifth season might be ‘Time, which holds the seasons together’, or perhaps the fifth season is simply ‘the Unknown’. Jack is preoccupied with the lost: with those people whose bodies are found but never identified, or those who, suffering amnesia, can’t be identified, but who need ‘to find their proper location in the story. In the seasons. A lost person must be allowed other dimensions.’
The beginning of the novel finds Jack arriving at an Airbnb in a small Australian coastal town called Blue Bay, where he intends, over a planned period of three months, to work on a book about what he thinks of as found bodies: ‘Found dead, on the beach, in a car. In a hotel room. Anonymous. Their end shape charged with the object of their body, not the subject of their lives.’ His research involves more than one person whose anonymous dead body was discovered on a beach, and the figure to whom his mind returns most often is the unknown man whose newly dead body was found leaning against the sea wall on Adelaide’s Somerton Beach in 1948, a mystery with assorted features sufficiently strange to reinforce Adelaide’s reputation as the home of the weird.