Preservation (Jock Serong, Text)
Jock Serong’s Preservation is based on the true story of the shipwrecked merchant vessel Sydney Cove in 1797. A stranded group of 17 men set out on the arduous trek north and east in search of the fledgling Sydney settlement. Only three survive the journey, found in a pitiable condition not that far from their destination. In Serong’s retelling, the accounts given by two of the men contradict one another, and the third man, a servant, is silent. Young lieutenant Joshua Grayling is tasked with finding out the truth. Shifting between these different points of view, Serong slowly pieces together a horrific tale of greed and murder, which is exacerbated when Grayling’s wife, Charlotte, persuades the silent manservant to speak up. Preservation is a great read for lovers of Australian historical fiction and will also appeal to those who enjoyed Ian McGuire’s The North Water. Both novels are page turners, taking place in extreme settings, and have at their core a repulsive and evil villain who will mesmerise readers. A key theme of Preservation is the cultural difference between the local Indigenous people and the settlers. The story will grip readers through its many layers: it is tragic, romantic and gruesome.
Barb Sampson is a Perth-based reviewer and bookseller