Preservation by Jock Serong

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Text Publishing Company, 2018. ISBN 9781925773125
(Adult - Senior Secondary) Recommended. Themes: Sydney Cove (Ship), Shipwrecks, Sydney (N.S.W.) - History - 1851-1901. It was hard to put down this epic tale of survival, based on a true story, which began as a sail journey by an illicit rum trading ship, the Sydney Cove from India, subsequently shipwrecked on Preservation Island in Bass Strait. Fourteen survivors, including an ex-convict named Figge disguised as a tea merchant, Clark the supercargo and a group of Indian seamen (lascars), attempted to make a small boat rescue trip to the newly established convict settlement at Sydney Cove. Marooned again, on the shores of the south east Australian mainland coast the diminishing party were forced to walk hundreds of miles as far as Wattamolla (south of Sydney). The mystery of what happened unfolds as an enquiry is held and the three survivors, Figge, Clark and a lascar boy, Srinivas, are interviewed by Lieutenant Joshua Grayling, whose wife is also involved, at the climax.
Each short chapter uses the voice of one or more of the participants, to unveil the murderous intent of one of the party, as the survivors encounter an unknown environment occupied by Aboriginal tribes. The author's characters are vivid and engaging and an atmosphere of horror is created in an authentic setting. The Australian landscape is wonderfully described and Aboriginal people are sympathetically depicted.
The author's previous book On the Java Ridge won the Colin Roderick Award for the best book of the year dealing with an aspect of Australian life.
Paul Pledger