Preservation by Jock Serong

1. First lines. 2. Publisher: Text Publishing 3. Governor John Hunter [Public domain]
I really liked this book.
This story reflects the brutality of the times.

In 1797, “Sydney Cove“, a ship bound for the convict settlement of Port Jackson, became shipwrecked off the coast of Tasmania. Some of the survivors started to row a small boat up the east coast of Australia, but this boat was also wrecked. They then walked some 600 miles along the coast and were rescued not far from their destination. “Preservation” is a historical narrative based on this event.

“Now the night slipped past the longboat, north from Cockle Bay then west. Silent eucalypts framed the evening lives of those on the bank: convicts drinking around fires, families in their dimly lit cottages and Cadigal on the ground in huddles of six or eight.

“Hamilton, barely brighter than the birds, is still talking. He has a plan of sorts. We are to use the jolly boat to retrieve everything from the ship and bring it to the beach. We are to load a barren rock, maybe a mile long, with the baubles and trinkets of faraway civilization: plates and shoes and spices and a horse and cow and for the love of Christ Himself a musical organ. What pretty mischief: we are making a tiny England.”

Quotes from the book.
  • Australian Book Review: “Yet this gripping and extremely accomplished novel never feels beholden to its antecedents or bogged down by research. Instead, it offers a fresh glimpse of the violence at the heart of the colonial project, not just as it was, but as it is.”
  • The Sydney Morning Herald: “It is a gripping tale, and, while Serong is to be commended for avoiding some of the more obvious plot climaxes, he could have ratcheted up the tension, and drawn the storylines out even more than he has done. There is a sense of material left unused and storylines left flapping in the wind. However, the little-known tale is well worth exploring and Serong has spun a yarn that brings a strange episode into sharp focus and gives it a sensibility that chimes with contemporary preoccupations.”

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