The Un-Discovered Islands could not be more different in substance — though it is similar in style — to Malachy Tallack’s debut, Sixty Degrees North. In that he book he took a revealing pilgrimage around the places which lay, like his home of Shetland, on the 60th parallel, and found a range of concerns about ecology, land ownership, both solitude and community, and what it means to be considered peripheral. This book is an account of 24 non-existent islands, yet is suffused with the same elegiac frostiness as before. Tallack’s style is precise without being perjink, and the overwhelming feeling is of something lost, or disappearing. It’s just this time, what is lost never was.
He divides the islands into groups of four: terrestrial afterlives, such as the Garden of the Hesperides; islands from the earliest explorations, like the Ultima Thule of Pytheas, where the air was not just gelid but jelly; those from the great age of exploration, like the strangely moving Hy Brasil; ‘sunken’ islands, of which Atlantis is the most famous; outright fakes; and recent un-discoveries — islands which have lingered on maps without having existed.