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Preservation

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On a beach not far from the isolated settlement of Sydney in 1797, a fishing boat picks up three shipwreck survivors, distressed and terribly injured. They have walked hundreds of miles across a landscape whose features—and inhabitants—they have no way of comprehending. They have lost fourteen companions along the way. Their accounts of the ordeal are evasive. It is Lieuten On a beach not far from the isolated settlement of Sydney in 1797, a fishing boat picks up three shipwreck survivors, distressed and terribly injured. They have walked hundreds of miles across a landscape whose features—and inhabitants—they have no way of comprehending. They have lost fourteen companions along the way. Their accounts of the ordeal are evasive. It is Lieutenant Joshua Grayling’s task to investigate the story. He comes to realise that those fourteen deaths were contrived by one calculating mind and, as the full horror of the men’s journey emerges, he begins to wonder whether the ruthless killer poses a danger to his own family.


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On a beach not far from the isolated settlement of Sydney in 1797, a fishing boat picks up three shipwreck survivors, distressed and terribly injured. They have walked hundreds of miles across a landscape whose features—and inhabitants—they have no way of comprehending. They have lost fourteen companions along the way. Their accounts of the ordeal are evasive. It is Lieuten On a beach not far from the isolated settlement of Sydney in 1797, a fishing boat picks up three shipwreck survivors, distressed and terribly injured. They have walked hundreds of miles across a landscape whose features—and inhabitants—they have no way of comprehending. They have lost fourteen companions along the way. Their accounts of the ordeal are evasive. It is Lieutenant Joshua Grayling’s task to investigate the story. He comes to realise that those fourteen deaths were contrived by one calculating mind and, as the full horror of the men’s journey emerges, he begins to wonder whether the ruthless killer poses a danger to his own family.

30 review for Preservation

  1. 4 out of 5

    Krystal

    Robinson Crusoe meets Silence of the Lambs meets that old primary school song we all learned about Botany Bay. This one is based on the true story of a shipwreck back in Australia's early (settlement) days, and man, is it a doozy. The ship wrecks off the coast of Tassie Van Diemen's Land and a handful of men decide they need to make tracks towards Sydney in hopes of sending help. They take a bunch of slaves and don't even get me started ranting about slavery. Let's just say I'm glad this was 200+ Robinson Crusoe meets Silence of the Lambs meets that old primary school song we all learned about Botany Bay. This one is based on the true story of a shipwreck back in Australia's early (settlement) days, and man, is it a doozy. The ship wrecks off the coast of Tassie Van Diemen's Land and a handful of men decide they need to make tracks towards Sydney in hopes of sending help. They take a bunch of slaves and don't even get me started ranting about slavery. Let's just say I'm glad this was 200+ years ago. So among them is Figge, who is basically the devil incarnate, and while everyone is trying their best to survive in the formidable Australian bush, this guy has his own agenda that makes things a lot harder than they need to be. So here we have: - Hostile environment - Discord among survivors - White people being jerks to slaves - Long, arduous trek - Sneaky little criminal mastermind So it's actually really fun and devious and I can't lie, I enjoyed it immensely. The writing threw me at first. I was worried that it was going to be one of those books that works so hard to say things in fancy convoluted ways that I'd be bogged down by the language, but it had just the right blend of description and action. There were actually some beautiful, picturesque phrases and the words really brought the setting to life. This will be particularly effective if you've ever been out into the Australian bush, but it also paints a very clear, realistic picture for people who might want to know more about Australia. The story is told from multiple viewpoints, which was quite effective in amping up the mystery factor, because you don't know which parts are lies and which parts are truth. They take turns in telling the tale of the trek north, but all slight variations. It did make it a little confusing at times but I think that was kind of the point. Wasn't entirely sure about the necessity of including all the present-day drama with the wife and the illness etc but I guess it was just another facet of life in this new and strange land. Naturally, the aboriginal communities were a big part of this story. I found it interesting the way they were portrayed, particularly in the way they associated preferentially with the slaves. I think that was a powerful statement. It's also quite a vital piece of Australia's history - to communicate that these people were already here, living full lives with their own social systems, not wanting anything, all before white settlers went tromping all over, claiming the country for themselves. It wasn't a pushed agenda, though; it was just a realistic factor of the story. Handled poorly, this could have caused massive controversy I think, but it was written into the story with great respect, so kudos to the author for that. This is a fascinating fictionalised account of a small piece of Australia's early history, but it's also a great, sinister novel on its own. I loved the references to Australian wildlife (particularly the 'fat badgers') and I felt such patriotism reading about this hostile environment that only the tough survive. That's my country! You also get to know these nasty characters - Figge in particular is such a subtle menace that it makes for a ripper of a story. Well researched and eloquently written, I have no hesitation in recommending this one. Crime lovers, people who want to know more about Australian history, or the landscape in general. People who like adventure stories tinged with a little bit of evil. Overall, a fantastic read. With thanks to Text Publishing for my ARC.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Brenda

    It was 1797 and Lieutenant Joshua Grayling was captivated by the eyes of the terribly injured Figge – his demeanor was strange to say the least; his story even stranger. From what he was told, the Sydney Cove had foundered on the rocks of Preservation Island, and the survivors had walked hundreds of miles until they were picked up near Sydney. The fourteen who had died along the way had apparently suffered – but Figge’s descriptions were random and didn’t make a lot of sense. William Clark was a It was 1797 and Lieutenant Joshua Grayling was captivated by the eyes of the terribly injured Figge – his demeanor was strange to say the least; his story even stranger. From what he was told, the Sydney Cove had foundered on the rocks of Preservation Island, and the survivors had walked hundreds of miles until they were picked up near Sydney. The fourteen who had died along the way had apparently suffered – but Figge’s descriptions were random and didn’t make a lot of sense. William Clark was another of the three survivors… Grayling’s wife, Charlotte, although ill, talked to her husband about the survivors, offering insights and suggestions. But as Grayling continued his interviews plus readings of Clark’s diary, he began to feel there were untruths and differing opinions from the men. What had happened to those fourteen men who didn’t survive the journey from the ill-fated Sydney Cove? Was Grayling uncovering a ruthless killer? Preservation by Aussie author Jock Serong is another intriguing historical mystery novel; the story taken, researched and embellished from newspaper archives regarding the story of the Sydney Cove; the wreck of which lay undiscovered until New Year’s Day, 1977, 180 years after its demise. A fascinating look at history which I recommend. With thanks to Text Publishing for my ARC to read in exchange for an honest review.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Text Publishing

    ‘Serong’s prose is evocative, his dialogue convincing.’ Sydney Morning Herald ‘Serong is a talented storyteller.’ Booklist ‘One of Australia’s most innovative and ambitious crime writers.’ NZ Listener

  4. 5 out of 5

    Marianne

    Preservation is the fourth novel by Award-winning Australian author, Jock Serong. From the archive of a newspaper named The Asiatic Mirror, we know that a tri-masted country trader, the Sydney Cove, filled with goods including quite a lot of rum, left Calcutta in November of 1796, headed for New South Wales on a speculative venture, and was wrecked on Preservation Island in Bass Strait in early 1797. One of those on board, William Clark wrote an incomplete diary, extracts of which were quoted in Preservation is the fourth novel by Award-winning Australian author, Jock Serong. From the archive of a newspaper named The Asiatic Mirror, we know that a tri-masted country trader, the Sydney Cove, filled with goods including quite a lot of rum, left Calcutta in November of 1796, headed for New South Wales on a speculative venture, and was wrecked on Preservation Island in Bass Strait in early 1797. One of those on board, William Clark wrote an incomplete diary, extracts of which were quoted in said newspaper. Serong takes the bare bones of these facts and fleshes them out. After the wrecking, seventeen men take the longboat, intending to reach Sydney and initiate a rescue of the remaining crew and salvage of the rum cargo. Mere days later this boat, too, is wrecked, and the men, with what goods they have been able to recover, head on foot for Sydney, some five hundred and fifty miles. Not quite three months later, three survivors are picked up by a fishing boat just south of Sydney. On Governor Hunter’s instruction, Lieutenant Joshua Grayling questions two of the survivors: William Clark, who is supercargo for the shipping company; and Mr Figge, who purports to be a representative of a tea merchant. Srinivas, a Bengali lascar, is Clark’s manservant and assumed to speak no English. Charlotte Grayling listens to her husband’s account of the interrogation of the survivors, asking pertinent questions and offering insightful observations. Each of these five distinct narratives is denoted by its own apt icon both at each start and beside the page count. It soon becomes apparent that each of these survivors is not being entirely forthcoming, and that Clark’s journal does not give the full facts, even where the facts recorded are actually true. What they are hiding, and why, becomes the object of Grayling’s interviews with the men. Serong’s characters are much more than one-dimensional, and he gives some of them perceptive reflections: “…not only do they have the run of the land, the miles that might stretch between one man and another, but they put their homes where they want them for the seasons. To be rich, I had thought until then, was a walled place. But now I wondered if being rich meant not needing the wall.” Serong’s depiction of the attitudes of the white settlers to the indigenous people is realistic. Serong states in his Author’s Note “Perhaps all of this is history, and none of it” so the reader will understand that not all the of the story that follows may align strictly with known facts. But his imagining is both fascinating and eminently believable. He includes three very useful maps and the depth of his research is apparent on every page. Once again, an utterly brilliant read!

  5. 5 out of 5

    Joanne

    Thanks to Text publishing for my free copy. I have never read this author before. Firstly fantastic I was thoroughly enthralled but couple of times I wander off from a slow pace of story telling. Overall though a very intriguing story (the actual event of the wreck of the ship the Sydney Cove) with good characters and some creepy ones. I was a bit sceptical with reading Australian history, only because I have been sucked in before thinking it would be a fairly even playing field only to discover Thanks to Text publishing for my free copy. I have never read this author before. Firstly fantastic I was thoroughly enthralled but couple of times I wander off from a slow pace of story telling. Overall though a very intriguing story (the actual event of the wreck of the ship the Sydney Cove) with good characters and some creepy ones. I was a bit sceptical with reading Australian history, only because I have been sucked in before thinking it would be a fairly even playing field only to discover it was simply a book to reinforce colonialism and colonial history. Thankfully this book does not do this. As you would expect there is racism etc but that was the attitude of the time, my only concern it will continue to maintain those attitudes. However if readers read this novel with a good history mystery/ thriller in mind then I dare say you will enjoy as I did.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Bram

    A magnificent adventure, with some serious food for thought about Australian history, collective responsibility and the fragile bonds of civility. Just great.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Ystyn Francis

    Thank you to Text Publishing for an advance copy of this excellent novel. After being blown away by Jock Serong's "The Rules of Backyard Cricket" - my favourite book of 2016 - I quickly devoured "On the Java Ridge" when it was released before heading back to where it all began by reading his Ned Kelly Award-winning debut novel, "Quota". What has impressed me most about Serong, including his newest novel "Preservation", is how all four books are about such vastly different worlds and the vastly d Thank you to Text Publishing for an advance copy of this excellent novel. After being blown away by Jock Serong's "The Rules of Backyard Cricket" - my favourite book of 2016 - I quickly devoured "On the Java Ridge" when it was released before heading back to where it all began by reading his Ned Kelly Award-winning debut novel, "Quota". What has impressed me most about Serong, including his newest novel "Preservation", is how all four books are about such vastly different worlds and the vastly different characters who populate them. The level and depth of research is clear on every page, and the social commentary is insightful and thought-provoking. "Preservation's" era, so close to the initial landing of the First Fleet, is a unique setting for an engaging and informative narrative which should become canonical over time. If the Queensland senior high school English program wasn't moving to a set text list next year, I would seriously consider using it (and "On the Java Ridge") as fascinating texts for students to study.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Made

    I had loved The Rules of Backyard Cricket so I got pretty excited when I found out I won a copy of Preservation (thank you Text Publishing!) and it didn't disappoint. Cleverly constructed, an interesting mix of characters (possibly the most despicable man in literature in Mr Figge)... you'll struggle to put it down.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Pile By the Bed

    Australian author Jock Serong never does the same thing twice. He has gone from corruption in sport in The Rules of Backyard Cricket to a political thriller in On the Java Ridge and now to historical investigation in Preservation. But in each case he shines a light on some aspect of Australian life or, in some respects the Australian condition. In Preservation, besides being a cracking tale of survival, betrayal and psychopathy, Serong explores the earliest days of the colony of Sydney. Preservat Australian author Jock Serong never does the same thing twice. He has gone from corruption in sport in The Rules of Backyard Cricket to a political thriller in On the Java Ridge and now to historical investigation in Preservation. But in each case he shines a light on some aspect of Australian life or, in some respects the Australian condition. In Preservation, besides being a cracking tale of survival, betrayal and psychopathy, Serong explores the earliest days of the colony of Sydney. Preservation is based on a true story. In 1797, a boat called the Sydney Cove running rum into the fledgling colony of Sydney (rum being a currency at that time) from India, runs aground on a tiny island just north of Tasmania. A group of seventeen, including four Englishmen and thirteen Lascars, leave the rest of the survivors behind on the island to go for help. They founder off the coast of Victoria, make land and then proceed to walk the fifteen hundred kilometres to Sydney. Only three survived the walk. Serong builds his tale around these three but also their interrogator, Grayling and his wife, who has been struck down by a debilitating illness. It emerges early on, at least for the reader, that one of the survivors is not who he says he is, a psychopath called Figge (an identity he assumed in India to get aboard the ship), who delights in manipulation and the pain of others. The other two are Clark, the owner of the boat, who has kept a diary of their journey, and his Bengali servant who never reveals to the others that he can understand them as they plot on the journey. Using these three, Serong has taken what is already a fairly incredible story and manages to dramatise it further, using some familiar crime fiction tropes to increase the tension. Serong immerses readers in the early colony of Sydney, wild and on the edge of revolution, hemmed in by bushland, the colonists constantly trying to understand and dominate the land and its people. At the same time he charts the journey of the Sydney Cove survivors up the south eastern coast of Australia and their first encounters with the indigenous inhabitants. Some of this feels a little anachronistic, the survivors seeming to understand more about the way tribal boundaries and language work than might have been possible. But the men did survive only with the help of the indigenous communities that they met on their odyssey so some level of understanding must have been reached. Serong captures the coastline, the forests and beaches of the south-eastern coast of Australia with great skill. Even today, a walk like the one described with only the supplies and provisions that these men had would be a spectacular feat. But given what they had to deal with, the fact that anyone survived is close to a miracle. Serong manages to breathe significant life into what is already a fascinating period if Australian colonial history. Preservation is totally engaging historical fiction.

  10. 5 out of 5

    Leon Jane

    Preservation sets a high benchmark for historical fiction. The story, set in 1797, is beautifully carved out of the ruggard, harsh Australian environment. It is a true delight, and a literary masterpiece. I found enjoyment reading the descriptive narration through the eyes of someone first stepping onto this continent and trying to make sense of foreign fauna, flora and it’s people. Geographical landmarks and places were described in such meticulous form that it was hard not to imagine the author Preservation sets a high benchmark for historical fiction. The story, set in 1797, is beautifully carved out of the ruggard, harsh Australian environment. It is a true delight, and a literary masterpiece. I found enjoyment reading the descriptive narration through the eyes of someone first stepping onto this continent and trying to make sense of foreign fauna, flora and it’s people. Geographical landmarks and places were described in such meticulous form that it was hard not to imagine the author also walking each step of the 500 odd mile journey - barefoot. The characters are complex, believable and likeable no matter how barbaric or how civilized they are and no matter what race they are. During the epic journey (of the shipwreck survivors) it was brilliant how the portrayal of the survivors changed to become more uncivilized in contrast to the natives who stood proud and ordered around their chaos. Race superiority is a function of one's point of view - this theme resonated through the novel and is still poignant in today's day and age. This novel won’t please everyone, some of the events are confronting, and one notable event had me thinking if it was necessarily - but it did make me think that far worse and far more frequent events of its type would have been commonplace back in that time. Also some of the language used is as offensive as the savagery of the characters using it and although it lends to that time I wouldn’t recommend this novel be read by younger minds. I had some minor issue with some of the plot, but it’s only personal gripe. For example the young lacsar’s inner dialogue was quite descriptive and thorough and while reading these passages I thought this may not be realistic for a young boy, even an intelligent one. But on the other hand I enjoyed this descriptive dialogue and realized it was necessary for the story. My only other issue was towards the end when (view spoiler)[ the survivors were running for 3 or 4 miles, and I questioned whether this was even possible in their emaciated state. (hide spoiler)] Like I said, these are my personal gripes and I am sure other readers won’t agree. Preservation is a beautiful story, and I feel privileged that I read it. You can see the hard work and craftsmanship that has gone into producing this polished novel, which leaves me searching for other works by Jock Serong.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Lisa

    Preservation was an impulse choice: I saw it at the library and I’d enjoyed Jock Serong’s On the Java Ridge (which BTW has won some awards since I read it). Preservation is quite different in that it’s historical fiction set in colonial Sydney, and it only obliquely tackles the problem of evil in the present day. It’s basically a detective story but it’s absorbing reading because it’s a howdunit and a whydunit rather than a whodunit… The novel is derived from the true story of shipwreck of the Syd Preservation was an impulse choice: I saw it at the library and I’d enjoyed Jock Serong’s On the Java Ridge (which BTW has won some awards since I read it). Preservation is quite different in that it’s historical fiction set in colonial Sydney, and it only obliquely tackles the problem of evil in the present day. It’s basically a detective story but it’s absorbing reading because it’s a howdunit and a whydunit rather than a whodunit… The novel is derived from the true story of shipwreck of the Sydney Cove. This is the blurb: On a beach not far from the isolated settlement of Sydney in 1797, a fishing boat picks up three shipwreck survivors, distressed and terribly injured. They have walked hundreds of miles across a landscape whose features—and inhabitants—they have no way of comprehending. They have lost fourteen companions along the way. Their accounts of the ordeal are evasive. It is Lieutenant Joshua Grayling’s task to investigate the story. He comes to realise that those fourteen deaths were contrived by one calculating mind and, as the full horror of the men’s journey emerges, he begins to wonder whether the ruthless killer poses a danger to his own family. The ship which set sail from Calcutta in British India was carrying rum, which was then the currency in the fledgling settlement of Sydney. Among the Sydney Cove’s passengers is a man soon revealed to be a psychopath called Figge; a naïve entrepreneur called Clark trying to beat the East India Company at its own game; and Srinivas, a Lascar learning the ropes of service from his father who is the unacknowledged leader of the Lascar crew. The narrative gives voice to all three, and also to Lt. Grayling and his wife Charlotte, who discovers that Srinivas speaks English and has witnessed incriminating conversations between Clark and Figge as to the fate of the fourteen companions. These narratives with their competing versions of the truth build to a climax. To read the rest of my review please visit https://anzlitlovers.com/2018/12/03/p...

  12. 5 out of 5

    Donna

    Set in 1797 and based on the true story of shipwreck survivors and their trek from Victoria to Sydney. The harsh landscape and the sense of menace make this a gripping read. Jock Serong has a very easy style so I raced through this to find out who survived. The dignity and wisdom of the indigenous peoples is shown in stark contrast to the brutality and savagery of their white, civilised occupiers. The nasty character of Figge shows evil that lies within a certain type of man.

  13. 5 out of 5

    Jane

    A well written and thought provoking fictional account of an historical shipwreck off Australia. As a lover of historical fiction, this certainly did not disappoint, full of detail and information. It was easy to lose yourself in the places the characters were (bush or Sydney town). This book is now joining my husband's 'to read' pile. Thank you to Text Publishing for this copy.

  14. 5 out of 5

    Unseen Library

    I received a copy of Preservation from Text Publishing to review. I did a short review of this book in The Canberra Weekly: https://unseenlibrary.com/2018/11/08/... Or visit my blog at: https://unseenlibrary.com/

  15. 4 out of 5

    Jodie

    I was surprised I found this book so hard to get into. I felt like I was just reading to finish it. Maybe I’ve got too much else going on and losing my reading mojo. Was anticipating a good read with the 4+ star rating.

  16. 5 out of 5

    Glenn Capelli

    Page turning literary history.

  17. 5 out of 5

    Jayne

    Great book, empathetic to history, a bit scary!~

  18. 5 out of 5

    Rachel

    Thank you to Text Publishing for the free copy. I was very eager to read this book having been riveted by Serong's last book, On the Java Ridge. Preservation tells the story of the Sydney Cove, which was lost between what is now Tasmania and Victoria, in 1797, and the journey made by some of the survivors to Sydney. Serong takes the few known facts of that journey and imagines what more could have gone unwritten in the history books. Brilliantly researched and with beautiful descriptions of Aust Thank you to Text Publishing for the free copy. I was very eager to read this book having been riveted by Serong's last book, On the Java Ridge. Preservation tells the story of the Sydney Cove, which was lost between what is now Tasmania and Victoria, in 1797, and the journey made by some of the survivors to Sydney. Serong takes the few known facts of that journey and imagines what more could have gone unwritten in the history books. Brilliantly researched and with beautiful descriptions of Australia and the survivors' encounters with Indigenous Australians, it was an enjoyable book but I was somewhat disappointed with the ending - a little too much left unexplained for my liking. Three and a half stars.

  19. 4 out of 5

    Lori Motschall

  20. 5 out of 5

    Viki

  21. 5 out of 5

    Librarians' Choice

  22. 5 out of 5

    Whitney

  23. 4 out of 5

    Iain Colquhoun

  24. 5 out of 5

    Fi

  25. 5 out of 5

    Stamp

  26. 4 out of 5

    Tim

  27. 4 out of 5

    Alik

  28. 4 out of 5

    Andrew

  29. 4 out of 5

    Philippa Sutton

  30. 5 out of 5

    Gab Doquile

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