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The Burning Island

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A father’s obsession. A daughter’s quest. Eliza Grayling, born in Sydney when the colony itself was still an infant, has lived there all her thirty-two years. Too tall, too stern—too old, now—for marriage, she looks out for her reclusive father, Joshua, and wonders about his past. There is a shadow there: an old enmity. When Joshua Grayling is offered the chance for a reckon A father’s obsession. A daughter’s quest. Eliza Grayling, born in Sydney when the colony itself was still an infant, has lived there all her thirty-two years. Too tall, too stern—too old, now—for marriage, she looks out for her reclusive father, Joshua, and wonders about his past. There is a shadow there: an old enmity. When Joshua Grayling is offered the chance for a reckoning with his nemesis, Eliza is horrified. It involves a sea voyage with an uncertain, probably violent, outcome. Insanity for an elderly blind man, let alone a drunkard. Unable to dissuade her father from his mad fixation, Eliza begins to understand she may be forced to go with him. Then she sees the vessel they will be sailing on. And in that instant, the voyage of the Moonbird becomes Eliza’s mission too. Irresistible prose, unforgettable characters and magnificent, epic storytelling: The Burning Island delivers everything readers have come to expect from Jock Serong. It may be his most moving, compelling novel yet.


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A father’s obsession. A daughter’s quest. Eliza Grayling, born in Sydney when the colony itself was still an infant, has lived there all her thirty-two years. Too tall, too stern—too old, now—for marriage, she looks out for her reclusive father, Joshua, and wonders about his past. There is a shadow there: an old enmity. When Joshua Grayling is offered the chance for a reckon A father’s obsession. A daughter’s quest. Eliza Grayling, born in Sydney when the colony itself was still an infant, has lived there all her thirty-two years. Too tall, too stern—too old, now—for marriage, she looks out for her reclusive father, Joshua, and wonders about his past. There is a shadow there: an old enmity. When Joshua Grayling is offered the chance for a reckoning with his nemesis, Eliza is horrified. It involves a sea voyage with an uncertain, probably violent, outcome. Insanity for an elderly blind man, let alone a drunkard. Unable to dissuade her father from his mad fixation, Eliza begins to understand she may be forced to go with him. Then she sees the vessel they will be sailing on. And in that instant, the voyage of the Moonbird becomes Eliza’s mission too. Irresistible prose, unforgettable characters and magnificent, epic storytelling: The Burning Island delivers everything readers have come to expect from Jock Serong. It may be his most moving, compelling novel yet.

30 review for The Burning Island

  1. 5 out of 5

    Phrynne

    I found this to be a very well written book which brings to light some of the lesser known and not particularly nice aspects of Australia's past. The main story is a bit thin but there is so much more in the book starting with life in old Sydney town and then moving on to a dangerous sea voyage on a small ship around the Bass Strait islands. At the end of the book Serong fills the reader in with information about how much of his story is based in fact and how much is his fiction. Parts of the voy I found this to be a very well written book which brings to light some of the lesser known and not particularly nice aspects of Australia's past. The main story is a bit thin but there is so much more in the book starting with life in old Sydney town and then moving on to a dangerous sea voyage on a small ship around the Bass Strait islands. At the end of the book Serong fills the reader in with information about how much of his story is based in fact and how much is his fiction. Parts of the voyage seemed long and uneventful and I was not enamored with the some of the Doctor's scientific experiments. I had to skim the nastier bits. However the beautiful descriptions of the sea and the islands were well worth reading every single word. I wonder if we will find out what happens to Eliza and Argyle in the next book. My thanks to Netgalley and the publisher for the opportunity to read and review this book.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Brenda

    It was 1830 and thirty-two-year-old Eliza Grayling was at the markets when she was aware of being watched. The man followed her until she confronted him and learned he was Srinivas, who had known her father in days gone by. Former Lieutenant Joshua Grayling was now reclusive and blind, and Eliza cared for him. What Srinivas wanted was something Eliza would not encourage. But before much time had passed, Eliza joined Joshua – as his carer and his eyes – on the Moonbird in search of a missing vess It was 1830 and thirty-two-year-old Eliza Grayling was at the markets when she was aware of being watched. The man followed her until she confronted him and learned he was Srinivas, who had known her father in days gone by. Former Lieutenant Joshua Grayling was now reclusive and blind, and Eliza cared for him. What Srinivas wanted was something Eliza would not encourage. But before much time had passed, Eliza joined Joshua – as his carer and his eyes – on the Moonbird in search of a missing vessel. The Bass Strait was a dangerous stretch of sea for a voyage and one such as this was bound to have a bad outcome… The Burning Island is the 2nd in the Grayling trilogy and follows on from Preservation – 33 years from the end of that novel. Eliza has lived in Sydney her whole life and she’s an independent spinster who cares for her father. The vastness of the ocean around Bass Strait; the journey they took to find the missing ship and her cargo; her father’s obsession – all narrated in Eliza’s voice, told a moving, descriptive story. Part fact, part fiction by Australian author Jock Serong, The Burning Island is to be recommended. With thanks to NetGalley and Text Publishing for my digital ARC to read in exchange for an honest review.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Andrea

    4.5★ The latest novel from master storyteller Jock Serong, is a sequel to his darkly exciting book, Preservation, set 33 years later. According to an article I read in the Australian Financial Review, there will eventually be a trilogy paying tribute to his fascination with the Furneaux Islands of Bass Strait. And I have to say - he's definitely onto something. While I think The Burning Island could be read as a standalone, I really wouldn't recommend it as the reading experience is going to be m 4.5★ The latest novel from master storyteller Jock Serong, is a sequel to his darkly exciting book, Preservation, set 33 years later. According to an article I read in the Australian Financial Review, there will eventually be a trilogy paying tribute to his fascination with the Furneaux Islands of Bass Strait. And I have to say - he's definitely onto something. While I think The Burning Island could be read as a standalone, I really wouldn't recommend it as the reading experience is going to be much richer with the more detailed background knowledge of what happened in the first instalment. It's towards the end of 1830 and we are in Parramatta. Eliza Grayling is a 32yo, tall and fiercely intelligent spinster-governess. She's content with her situation - not happy really, but content - as it allows her the time and freedom to keep an eye on her father, former Lieutenant Joshua Grayling. He needs it, too. He's suffered a massive fall from grace and is now an aged, blind, reclusive, grieving alcoholic. In the opening pages Eliza is approached in the street by a man who is trying to locate her father in order to put a business proposition to him. The man is none other than Srinivas, former lascar from the Sydney Cove. These days he's a prosperous trader but he's had a ship and its cargo go missing, and he thinks their old nemesis might be behind it. He wants Joshua Grayling to go looking for the missing ship. Eliza is beyond scornful of this idea - her father is blind, after all. But Joshua is immediately drawn to the possibility of confrontation, so between the two men, they wear Eliza down and she agrees to accompany her father on the voyage, to be his eyes and his carer. Off they sail, aboard the Moonbird, to Bass's strait. This is a tale of exploration of the Furneaux group of islands, and the small contingent methodically sails from island to island in search of evidence of the missing ship. Some of the islands are settled by European sealers and their tyereelore wives, lawless by reputation, but perhaps in many cases simply characterised that way due to their distance from law enforcement in Van Diemens Land/lutruwita. A lot of the tension in the story comes from the meetings with these strangers - not knowing whether they are friend or foe. (view spoiler)[And I have to say, the identity of a certain fellow passenger on board the Moonbird, seemed like such an obvious threat to me right from that character's introduction, that I had to presume Serong did that to increase my anxiety as a reader, while Eliza and Joshua remained oblivious. (hide spoiler)] Throw in an encounter with one of George Robinson's proxies, rounding up the Palawa people from the islands (mostly women and children but some men as well) to take them away to be Christianised, and there is a veritable rollercoaster of colonial thrills. The entire story is told from Eliza'a point of view, giving it a lot more texture than Preservation had. By that I mean there are some moments of softness and light, in contrast to Preservation's hard darkness. I think it's for this reason that I enjoyed the reading experience much more this time (but don't get me wrong - Preservation was a really good story). The other big factor for me was that this one is set largely in the islands, giving Serong scope to draw on the history of the local indigenous people. It's something I am thirsty to learn about. (I was born and brought up in Tasmania, and having lived there the greater portion of my life it was only relatively recently that I learned the name lutruwita - we just weren't taught this stuff at school!) Knowing there is a 3rd book to come, my mind has been racing, working through the loose ends, wondering where Serong will take this saga next. I can barely wait! With thanks to NetGalley and Text Publishing for an advance copy to read and review.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Marianne

    “The surface was calm enough to reflect the galaxies, so that it looked as though the universe swirled all around us above and below, as if up and down had ceased to exist and only all around remained: the Moonbird was aloft and freed of its own weight.” The Burning Island is the fifth novel by award-winning Australian author, Jock Serong and is a sequel to his earlier novel featuring Joshua Grayling, Preservation. When thirty-two-year-old tutor, Eliza Grayling is followed home from town by an ag “The surface was calm enough to reflect the galaxies, so that it looked as though the universe swirled all around us above and below, as if up and down had ceased to exist and only all around remained: the Moonbird was aloft and freed of its own weight.” The Burning Island is the fifth novel by award-winning Australian author, Jock Serong and is a sequel to his earlier novel featuring Joshua Grayling, Preservation. When thirty-two-year-old tutor, Eliza Grayling is followed home from town by an ageing Indian, she cannot, for one moment, conceive that she will be, at his suggestion, setting out on a journey to Bass’s Strait with her ageing, blind father, mere days later. Srinivas has come to her with a story of a missing ship: crew, cargo and passengers all believed lost, the wreckage of which he blames on a certain Mr Figge, the almost mythical figure who inhabits the disturbing story her father, Joshua sometimes tells. Once in the service of Governor Hunter, on hearing about the loss of the Howrah, the former Lieutenant exhibits uncharacteristic enthusiasm for the proposed investigatory voyage, clearly eager to draw out his nemesis. Eliza is well aware of her father’s problem with drink, and feels that his taking part is inadvisable. What, more than anything, sways Eliza to participate in this rather nebulous quest, is the vessel itself, a Danish schooner named The Moonbird: “I have no regard for the idea that it is possible to love an inanimate object. I will choose instead to say that this modest boat, perhaps eighty feet of her, was animate. And she was entangled, right alongside me, in a venture that made no sense. I felt she was on my side … I felt the boat cared for us in our individual plights, held us cupped somehow: carrying us, rather than being sailed by us.” The master that Srinivas has engaged for The Moonbird is a rather sombre man who surprises them all by garbing himself in a range of fetching dresses; the crew are two young convicts, capable brothers raised separately, who are both tender and volatile with each other; the paying passenger is a medical doctor intent on research of sea creatures for human nutrition, who fills the captain’s quarters with a laboratory’s worth of equipment and specimens. The close quarters serve to quickly amplify both passions and conflicts, but it is not until a gross betrayal of trust and several deaths that the true situation is known. Serong gives the reader an entrancing tale laced with some exquisite descriptive prose: “a wide body of water opened to the north of us, flat and serene and impossibly lovely. It made a chalky blue-green over the sandflats, a blue of royalty over the deeps, shades of lilac and mauve where a haze blended the two, further away. And in the places where waves rolled gently over reefs, other colours would dare to intrude upon the chorus of those shades; a burst of orange and brown where the surge lifted kelp to the surface, an explosion of white as the wave broke and dissipated” He gives his complex characters some wise words and insightful observations: “Anyone who loves intensely will believe it is they who emit the light, they who shine warmth on the other. There is a selfcentredness in love, so strong that we fail to notice the loved one illuminating us” and, on grief: “You are fated to carry this all your days now, this loss. But you may alter its shape; that is the one grace permitted you.” The Author’s Note details the actual historical events that form part of the story; readers will be grateful for the detailed map included; Serong’s extensive research is apparent on every page, touching on the structure of island sealing communities, the appalling treatment of indigenous Tasmanians by white settlers and government, and the “Christian” activities of certain nineteenth-Century evangelists, to name a few topics. This is a powerful piece of Australian historical fiction. This unbiased review is from an uncorrected proof copy provided by NetGalley and Text Publishing.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Calzean

    Serong's writing is quite varied but this time he bases the story on a few historical facts of the 1830s similar to what he did with Preservation. Serong's narrator is a 30ish maiden who spends her time trying to educate two spoilt brats and looking after her reclusive, drunk father. Her father's past catches up with them and off they go on a hunt through the islands of Bass Strait looking for her father's evil nemesis. In their journey they experience the wildness of the sealers and escapees who Serong's writing is quite varied but this time he bases the story on a few historical facts of the 1830s similar to what he did with Preservation. Serong's narrator is a 30ish maiden who spends her time trying to educate two spoilt brats and looking after her reclusive, drunk father. Her father's past catches up with them and off they go on a hunt through the islands of Bass Strait looking for her father's evil nemesis. In their journey they experience the wildness of the sealers and escapees who have made lives on these remote islands. The book covers the dark episodes of this period - forceable kidnapping of Aboriginal women, desecration of the sealing and mutton bird populations, the Government's ham-fisted attempts to round up the Aboriginal population to give them a Christian upbringing, the acts of piracy to lure innocent shipping to destruction and the drunkenness and alcoholism of many. The writing and story lines with various coincidences, bad guys and good women reads like a book from that period. Serong does his usual fine job again showing his versatility and talents.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Trevor

    This was a disappointing read for me. Unlike other books by Jock Serong, not a lot happened in this one, which is surprising, as all his other books are full of action. The other downsides for me were: 1) the twist in the plot was quite obvious 2) the sea journey went on and on 3) the visits to the various islands on the journey didn't add anything to the storyline This book should have been edited, thus giving the storyline a far better pace and more focus. Having said all of the above though, the ac This was a disappointing read for me. Unlike other books by Jock Serong, not a lot happened in this one, which is surprising, as all his other books are full of action. The other downsides for me were: 1) the twist in the plot was quite obvious 2) the sea journey went on and on 3) the visits to the various islands on the journey didn't add anything to the storyline This book should have been edited, thus giving the storyline a far better pace and more focus. Having said all of the above though, the actual writing was good, and I look forward to reading Jock Serong's next novel. I was given a copy of this book by the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Laur

    The Burning Island, by Jock Serong, is a historical fiction story that takes place in 1830 based upon the shipwreck of the "Howrah". Believing it was not the work of nature, the Bengali, Srinivas, asks Joshua Grayling to find out the mystery of what happened to the Howrah, along with it's cargo and the list of 30 passengers that are all missing, half of which were woman. Srinivas and Joshua Grayling feel an evildoer is responsible for this, a man known by the name of Mister Figge. Grayling jumps The Burning Island, by Jock Serong, is a historical fiction story that takes place in 1830 based upon the shipwreck of the "Howrah". Believing it was not the work of nature, the Bengali, Srinivas, asks Joshua Grayling to find out the mystery of what happened to the Howrah, along with it's cargo and the list of 30 passengers that are all missing, half of which were woman. Srinivas and Joshua Grayling feel an evildoer is responsible for this, a man known by the name of Mister Figge. Grayling jumps at the chance to confront him and bring him down despite the fact he hasn't sailed for years, he's completely blind, and totally addicted to alcohol, being drunk nearly all the time. His daughter, Eliza Grayling, tall, outspoken, in her 30's never married, adamantly insists her father not go, and detests his nearly constant state of drunkenness, but to no avail. She resigns herself to going with her father, and a small crew, including the master of the ship, Argyle, who wears dresses on the ship. The vessel chosen for the tasks, is a vessel called, "Moonbird". They have no idea what awaits all of them on this journey! The Burning Island was an intriguing read. Some of the scientific marine biology may be a bit more schooling than some would prefer, but nevertheless, the characters were colorful and diverse, there was mystery, excitement, twists, and a surprise ending. Also, the Author's Note at the end was enjoyable and informative. Well done. 4 STARS. My thanks to Netgalley for advanced copy in exchange for my honest opinion.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Text Publishing

    The following book reviews have been shared by Text Publishing – publisher of The Burning Island ‘A rollicking good yarn… brilliantly written and immensely entertaining.’ Noosa Today ‘A captivating, beautiful seafaring novel.’ Mirandi Riwoe 'Another absolute ripper from Jock Serong. A swashbuckling historical thriller with a steely female protagonist, a cross-dressing sea captain, loads of convincing detail and even more derring-do. Read it in one sitting.’ Alex McClintock ‘Razor-sharp descriptions, u The following book reviews have been shared by Text Publishing – publisher of The Burning Island ‘A rollicking good yarn… brilliantly written and immensely entertaining.’ Noosa Today ‘A captivating, beautiful seafaring novel.’ Mirandi Riwoe 'Another absolute ripper from Jock Serong. A swashbuckling historical thriller with a steely female protagonist, a cross-dressing sea captain, loads of convincing detail and even more derring-do. Read it in one sitting.’ Alex McClintock ‘Razor-sharp descriptions, unique characters and meticulous research bring the brutal challenges of the Australian colonies vividly to life.’ Staunch Prize ‘Wow. Put me in this time machine for a few hours… This is a dashing learned book… I could not stop reading this book. If this is historical fiction, give me more.’ Australian 'Menacing, moving, maritime mystery of colonial times that drags you into a morass of wonderful, mad, inventive characters whose motives are only part of an intricately woven, surprising plot.’ Manning Community News

  9. 4 out of 5

    Jennifer (JC-S)

    ‘I had been aware of the man in the corner of my vision for an hour or more.’ Sydney, 1830. Eliza Grayling, thirty-two years old, has lived in Sydney all her life. Unmarried, she lives by herself and looks out for her father Joshua, a reclusive alcoholic. There is something in Joshua’s past that haunts him. Something that happened before she was born, something he does not speak about. ‘Circumstances are strands in a rope … it was their combination that mattered.’ And then, another man from the pas ‘I had been aware of the man in the corner of my vision for an hour or more.’ Sydney, 1830. Eliza Grayling, thirty-two years old, has lived in Sydney all her life. Unmarried, she lives by herself and looks out for her father Joshua, a reclusive alcoholic. There is something in Joshua’s past that haunts him. Something that happened before she was born, something he does not speak about. ‘Circumstances are strands in a rope … it was their combination that mattered.’ And then, another man from the past arrives. Srinivas, whose ship the Howrah has been lost. Srinivas wants Joshua’s help. He believes that foul play is involved, in the islands of the Furneaux group. After following Eliza, Srinivas meets with Grayling. Grayling remembers him and agrees to help. He sees an opportunity to meet with his nemesis, Figge. An opportunity to revisit and put right what went wrong thirty-three years earlier. Joshua Grayling is blind: Eliza feels obliged to travel with him. They are to travel on the Moonbird, with a small crew, including Dr Gideon who is a medical doctor and an amateur naturalist. What follows is an extraordinary voyage at a time when sealers were operating in the Furneaux group and when George Augustus Robinson’s agents actively seeking to remove Indigenous women from the islands. Mr Serong brings his characters to life: the flawed fictional characters as well as the real sealers and the tyereelore women living with them on the islands. It is a dark tale of pursuit, strength and weakness, and the power of the past over the present. Will Joshua Grayling find the answers he is looking for? Will Eliza be able to protect him from himself? It is an epic journey, a brilliantly written novel which, having given me some unforgettable images, has claimed its own space in my memory. Mr Serong’s Author’s Note includes the facts around which this fiction is woven. He also provides some suggested reading for those of us who want to know more about the Furneaux group and those who lived there. Note: My thanks to NetGalley and Text Publishing for providing me with a free electronic copy of this book for review purposes. Jennifer Cameron-Smith

  10. 5 out of 5

    Deborah

    I've always regretted I didn't read The Rules of Backyard Cricket by Jock Serong when it was released. I've only heard amazing things about it so leapt at the chance to read Serong's latest release. What I hadn't realised about The Burning Island however, was that it is historical fiction (which isn't a favourite of mine) and that it is actually the sequel to his earlier work Preservation. It meant I probably didn't appreciate the story on offer as much as I might otherwise have but I could certai I've always regretted I didn't read The Rules of Backyard Cricket by Jock Serong when it was released. I've only heard amazing things about it so leapt at the chance to read Serong's latest release. What I hadn't realised about The Burning Island however, was that it is historical fiction (which isn't a favourite of mine) and that it is actually the sequel to his earlier work Preservation. It meant I probably didn't appreciate the story on offer as much as I might otherwise have but I could certainly appreciate his beautiful prose and vivid descriptions of the islands of the Bass Strait and harsh coastline and living conditions of the time. Read my review here: https://www.debbish.com/books-literat...

  11. 4 out of 5

    Meredith Jaffe

    The Burning Island follows on from Serong’s initial foray into historical fiction, the acclaimed novel, Preservation. It tells the story of the Sydney Cove, shipwrecked in the Furneaux group of islands off the coast of Tasmania, and the subsequent tale of survival as the remaining men walked hundreds of miles to the settlement of Sydney. It is left to Lieutenant Joshua Grayling to mine their travails, the death of fourteen men, and the cruelty of one. The Burning Island picks up the story some th The Burning Island follows on from Serong’s initial foray into historical fiction, the acclaimed novel, Preservation. It tells the story of the Sydney Cove, shipwrecked in the Furneaux group of islands off the coast of Tasmania, and the subsequent tale of survival as the remaining men walked hundreds of miles to the settlement of Sydney. It is left to Lieutenant Joshua Grayling to mine their travails, the death of fourteen men, and the cruelty of one. The Burning Island picks up the story some thirty years later. The year is now 1830 and Grayling is a drunkard and disgraced former officer reliant upon his spinster daughter Eliza for his care. A surprise visitor brings the past with him when he offers Grayling the opportunity to even the score with that one cruel man. Father and daughter embark on a voyage of their own, a reckoning of the past as much as a journey to understanding about the human soul and what and who controls our destiny. Former criminal lawyer, Jock Serong, made a name for himself writing crime novels, including the fabulous The Rules of Backyard Cricket. But Serong is also a keen surfer and surf writer so perhaps it is inevitable he would find his way to the sea in his fiction. Whatever the subject, Serong has proven himself to be a keen observer of the human condition. His characters traverse the vivid landscape of his novels, filled with the conviction of their strengths and fragilities. Serong’s writing is passionate and tender, and he has a sharp eye for plotting that lures the reader inwards. We are there when events turn for the worst, as aghast as the characters. Each outwitted by the cleverness of an assured storyteller and a devious villain. The Burning Island is not the end of the tale, which is a relief. Meanwhile, for lovers of a gripping yarn, this is a story guaranteed to carry readers deep into its dark heart.

  12. 4 out of 5

    AC

    Eliza Grayling - a woman who tends to her aging, blind alcoholic of a father - is approached by Srinivas, a Bengali Indian. Srinivas has a tale to tell her of a ship, lost with all its cargo and passengers, many of whom were women. He is not unfamiliar with ships lost to the sea or the pirates who sail on them; indeed, he believes that the person behind the disappearance of this ship is the mysterious Mr. Figge, with whom he sailed when Srinivas was merely a young orderly on another ship that fo Eliza Grayling - a woman who tends to her aging, blind alcoholic of a father - is approached by Srinivas, a Bengali Indian. Srinivas has a tale to tell her of a ship, lost with all its cargo and passengers, many of whom were women. He is not unfamiliar with ships lost to the sea or the pirates who sail on them; indeed, he believes that the person behind the disappearance of this ship is the mysterious Mr. Figge, with whom he sailed when Srinivas was merely a young orderly on another ship that foundered many years ago. In this time, though, with this ship, Srinivas wants to enlist the help of Eliza's father Joshua, who is also acquainted with Figge, and who also has business to settle with a man Eliza had thought more a myth than monster. Eliza, for her part, points out that her father is in no ship to put out to sea, and that he hasn't sailed in many years. Joshua insists, however, and because Eliza decides she must go as well, to care for him, the three of them embark on a journey to the Bass Strait on a ship called The Moonbird, along with a pair of convict brothers, a doctor studying marine life, and the crossdressing master of the ship. The narrative language is lush, at times soaring so high one might think it will never alight on the page again. There are brief moments when it skips along the line marking the abyss of purple prose, but dances away before falling in. The book is not a fast read, nor is it without the weight of being informed by actual events. Readers who stay with the book will be rewarded through its ups and downs by a story well and remarkably told. Five stars out of five. Thanks to Text Publishing and NetGalley for the review copy.

  13. 4 out of 5

    Caren

    I regret not having reread "Preservation" before opening Serong's sequel. It would have refreshed my memory and reset the scene of mystery, violence and regret that had been so skilfully created in the first text. Unfortunately, I was disappointed in my rather mixed response to "The Burning Island". The strength of the newest text again lay in Serong's skilled use of historical fact as the starting point of his story and in his ability to craft Nature (the sea and the Bass Strait Islands) as a p I regret not having reread "Preservation" before opening Serong's sequel. It would have refreshed my memory and reset the scene of mystery, violence and regret that had been so skilfully created in the first text. Unfortunately, I was disappointed in my rather mixed response to "The Burning Island". The strength of the newest text again lay in Serong's skilled use of historical fact as the starting point of his story and in his ability to craft Nature (the sea and the Bass Strait Islands) as a palpable character. But, I found the middle of the text tedious and lacking the energy of its beginning and, most particularly, of its stunning last sections. Primarily, the relationship between the ailing alcoholic father, Joshua Grayling, and his 32 year old devoted daughter, Eliza, was at the centre of the narrative as they sailed through Bass Strait to locate the wrecked ship of Grayling's past and track down the man whom he held responsible for its missing cargo and passengers. The author's cast of characters held my interest in its diversity: the cross-dressing captain, Arygle; the young, twin convict brothers; and certainly the doctor and naturalist, Gideon. Without a clear recount of the incident revealed in "Preservation" and the significant fate of those who had returned to Sydney after the wreck, the story itself remained confusing for me. However, Serong expertly captured the impact of colonisation, focusing on the "second wave sealers who occupied the [Bass Strait Islands]" and who took control of the Indigenous populations. His spotlight on the historical Tarenorerer, an indigenous woman who fought against "abduction, captivity and forced labour" injected into the journey a significant chapter of historical shame in regard to our colonial past.

  14. 4 out of 5

    Rachel

    I just finished reading my first Jock Serong and he absolutely did not disappoint. I'm honored to have read this just as it became available to the public because The Burning Island is not one to miss. What I liked: 👉 mysterious characters 👉 strong father / daughter relationship 👉 exploration of Furneaux Islands 👉 pirate-like theme 👉 historical fiction 👉 award-winning Australian author 👉 Book two of three (Preservation book 1) SYNOPSIS of THE BURNING ISLAND Eliza Grayling has lived in Sydney for thirty-tw I just finished reading my first Jock Serong and he absolutely did not disappoint. I'm honored to have read this just as it became available to the public because The Burning Island is not one to miss. What I liked: 👉 mysterious characters 👉 strong father / daughter relationship 👉 exploration of Furneaux Islands 👉 pirate-like theme 👉 historical fiction 👉 award-winning Australian author 👉 Book two of three (Preservation book 1) SYNOPSIS of THE BURNING ISLAND Eliza Grayling has lived in Sydney for thirty-two years; never married because always considered too tall, too stern and now…too old. So, she looks after her drunken, blind father curious about his past. There seems to have been a constant ghost: an old hostility. Exactly who is Joshua Grayling and what or who is haunting him? When Srinivas shows up with a story of a missing ship: crew, cargo and passengers all believed to be lost supposedly thanks to a Mr. Figge, Eliza remembers the mythical figure who occupies the unsettling story her father, Joshua would sometimes tell. On upon hearing about the loss of the Howrah, Joshua is eager to draw out his nemesis. Meanwhile, Eliza is aware of how this could worsen her father’s drinking problem and feels his taking part is ill-advised. There is only one thing to do…she must go along. Note: I did not read Preservation and do not feel it is necessary to understand the storyline in The Burning Island. Though, I will be adding it to my want to read pile.

  15. 4 out of 5

    Viola

    A father’s obsession. A daughter’s quest. Eliza Grayling, born in Sydney when the colony itself was still an infant, has lived there all her thirty-two years. Too tall, too stern—too old, now—for marriage, she looks out for her reclusive father, Joshua, and wonders about his past. There is a shadow there: an old enmity. When Joshua Grayling is offered the chance for a reckoning with his nemesis, Eliza is horrified. It involves a sea voyage with an uncertain, probably violent, outcome. Insanity for A father’s obsession. A daughter’s quest. Eliza Grayling, born in Sydney when the colony itself was still an infant, has lived there all her thirty-two years. Too tall, too stern—too old, now—for marriage, she looks out for her reclusive father, Joshua, and wonders about his past. There is a shadow there: an old enmity. When Joshua Grayling is offered the chance for a reckoning with his nemesis, Eliza is horrified. It involves a sea voyage with an uncertain, probably violent, outcome. Insanity for an elderly blind man, let alone a drunkard. Unable to dissuade her father from his mad fixation, Eliza begins to understand she may be forced to go with him. Then she sees the vessel they will be sailing on. And in that instant, the voyage of the Moonbird becomes Eliza’s mission too. Irresistible prose, unforgettable characters and magnificent, epic storytelling: The Burning Island delivers everything readers have come to expect from Jock Serong. It may be his most moving, compelling novel yet. Text publishing https://www.textpublishing.com.au/aut... Interview with author Jock Serong today on ABC Radio National The Book Show https://www.abc.net.au/radionational/...

  16. 5 out of 5

    Greg

    * I would like to thank Netgalley and the publisher for the opportunity to review this book. * In this follow up to Preservation, decades have passed and Lieutenant Joshua Grayling is now a broken man; a blind alcoholic, living as a recluse and heavily dependent on his daughter Eliza. One day an Indian man called Srinivas turns up, who turns out to be the lascar who was one of the victims in the crimes that the younger Grayling investigated. Srinivas is convinced that the criminal Figge has retur * I would like to thank Netgalley and the publisher for the opportunity to review this book. * In this follow up to Preservation, decades have passed and Lieutenant Joshua Grayling is now a broken man; a blind alcoholic, living as a recluse and heavily dependent on his daughter Eliza. One day an Indian man called Srinivas turns up, who turns out to be the lascar who was one of the victims in the crimes that the younger Grayling investigated. Srinivas is convinced that the criminal Figge has returned and is baiting Grayling to come out for a final showdown. Against Eliza's strong advice, Grayling agrees to Srinvas' request to confront Figge and put an end to his crimes. This means that Eliza is dragooned into their quest as well. The two of them board the Moonbird and sail down the coast to the islands where the original crimes took place. Accompanying them is the charismatic Doctor Gideon, whom the virginal Eliza is strangely attracted to, as he explains his excursions into natural history to her. Once the islands are reached, the little crew encounter some small settlements on a few of them, and find themselves in increasing danger, as the quest to find Figge reaches its climax. This is an evocative and taut historical drama, based in part on the history of the Tasmanian Furneaux Islands. Serong is an author who can turn his hand to almost any genre, and he has delivered another excellent work here. The next episode in the Grayling story will be keenly awaited. As a side-note, I would definitely recommend that people read Preservation before picking up this novel, as that would make many things in it much clearer.

  17. 4 out of 5

    Kimmy C

    Welcome echoes of the much enjoyed Preservation, we find the Grayling family on a mission to track down the elusive Mr Figge. Eliza and her blind father are on board a schooner traversing the waters around the Furneaux group in search of their prey. And answers. They are joined by an eclectic group on board, the dress-wearing Master, convict brothers as deck hands, and the enigmatic Dr Gideon, whose purpose on board is to collect specimens from this remote region. As the journey progresses, we l Welcome echoes of the much enjoyed Preservation, we find the Grayling family on a mission to track down the elusive Mr Figge. Eliza and her blind father are on board a schooner traversing the waters around the Furneaux group in search of their prey. And answers. They are joined by an eclectic group on board, the dress-wearing Master, convict brothers as deck hands, and the enigmatic Dr Gideon, whose purpose on board is to collect specimens from this remote region. As the journey progresses, we learn about the people, their stories and, for some, their fate, and how it’s intertwined with those they meet on the way. Props to the author for my ‘I did not see that coming’ moment. On the whole, a very enjoyable read, and, as it’s subtitled Grayling family #2, might we expect a #3? The descriptive prose took me to the area, and added more to my regretfully scant knowledge of the sad history of that region. I would recommend this, as it would do as a standalone if you brought yourself up to speed with the ‘why’, but best after you’ve read Preservation. You can catch up with old friends. 4.5 stars

  18. 5 out of 5

    Nola B

    I enjoyed this book and it was an interesting continuation of the themes presented in "Preservation ". I admired the character of Eliza, particularly towards the start of the book, when she seemed a little more feisty e.g." Sweet girl,why did you agree to come ?" I'd thought it through many times. I'd come up with arguments for curious outsiders. But I hadn't yet answered him directly. "Oh, the views I suppose. Sea air. Thought I'd try my hand at scrimshaw". The character of Tarenorerer was anot I enjoyed this book and it was an interesting continuation of the themes presented in "Preservation ". I admired the character of Eliza, particularly towards the start of the book, when she seemed a little more feisty e.g." Sweet girl,why did you agree to come ?" I'd thought it through many times. I'd come up with arguments for curious outsiders. But I hadn't yet answered him directly. "Oh, the views I suppose. Sea air. Thought I'd try my hand at scrimshaw". The character of Tarenorerer was another favourite e.g. " Keep movin' ''she waved her fingers vaguely east. "Robinson's mob gonna keep lookin. Batman's mob. Gotta stay ahead of em" She must of seen the worry on my face. "Dumb bastards. Not that hard ,eh ?" I found the plot a little confusing as bits of it didn't make sense but it's entirely possible this was just me. As always ,I look forward to Jock's next volume .

  19. 4 out of 5

    Jo | Booklover Book Reviews

    The Burning Island is my first experience of Jock Serong’s writing, and on the strength of this novel it will not be my last. I was immediately struck by the quality of his prose. Not decadent but fecund with descriptions of precision and nuance that evoked both subtle changes in mood and nature’s awe-inspiring grandeur. While nature is often in the leading role in this novel, Serong employs his deft characterisation to the human cast also. Their light and shade, and in the case of endearingly lo The Burning Island is my first experience of Jock Serong’s writing, and on the strength of this novel it will not be my last. I was immediately struck by the quality of his prose. Not decadent but fecund with descriptions of precision and nuance that evoked both subtle changes in mood and nature’s awe-inspiring grandeur. While nature is often in the leading role in this novel, Serong employs his deft characterisation to the human cast also. Their light and shade, and in the case of endearingly loyal but feisty Eliza, frustration and dark humour. The Burning Island‘s secondary ensemble cast too is afforded unexpected colour and depth; their ship’s captain a personal favourite. Continue reading: https://www.bookloverbookreviews.com/...

  20. 5 out of 5

    Hannelore Cheney

    Thank you NetGalley and Text Publishing for the eARC. This was a bit of a tough read for me. It started out with Eliza Grayling, a tall, stern woman, at 32-years old not likely to ever marry. She looks after her alcoholic father and teaches. On a shopping trip she's followed by a dark stranger, who has a strange request: ask her father to go after a mutual enemy who he suspects sank a ship. Tired of her life in Sydney, against her instinct, she decides to accompany her ailing father on a sea voya Thank you NetGalley and Text Publishing for the eARC. This was a bit of a tough read for me. It started out with Eliza Grayling, a tall, stern woman, at 32-years old not likely to ever marry. She looks after her alcoholic father and teaches. On a shopping trip she's followed by a dark stranger, who has a strange request: ask her father to go after a mutual enemy who he suspects sank a ship. Tired of her life in Sydney, against her instinct, she decides to accompany her ailing father on a sea voyage fraught with danger. My problem was with the scientific research conducted by a doctor, a paying guest on the ship. It was difficult for me to wrap my head around it 😢 and I ended up skipping a lot. The book was very well written and researched, with many interesting historical facts about early Australia and made for an adventurous read.

  21. 5 out of 5

    Nicole Sadler

    This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here. I love, love love, Jock Serong - his dry wit, scathing characatures and clever dialogue BUT having already read Preservation (and it was a dark, dark read), I was completely frustrated by this book. I t was clearly obvious to the reader that Figge was present on the ship and that Eliza was in peril and therefore frustrating and a bit hard to believe, that neither Eliza nor her father had any inkling of this. Certainly, the sensory impressions of the voyage were well written but all in all, a bit I love, love love, Jock Serong - his dry wit, scathing characatures and clever dialogue BUT having already read Preservation (and it was a dark, dark read), I was completely frustrated by this book. I t was clearly obvious to the reader that Figge was present on the ship and that Eliza was in peril and therefore frustrating and a bit hard to believe, that neither Eliza nor her father had any inkling of this. Certainly, the sensory impressions of the voyage were well written but all in all, a bit of a disappointing story. Sorry Jock.

  22. 5 out of 5

    Jim KABLE

    The Fur Nose Loved this book - a half part truth, a half part fiction reading as early 19th century gothic horror. I read it because I had ancestors engaged in the sealing trade in this very region from the start of the century - and tangling with one of the Delano brothers, indeed. I was not disappointed with the tale but particularly in this NAIDOC Week of 2020 warmed to find Palawa/lutruwita Tasmanians such a key part - and happy indeed to note the name Mansell! Jock Serong - bravissimo!

  23. 5 out of 5

    Tim Armstrong

    The author just gets better and better, and this possibly is his best. Although Java Ridge is a hard act to beat! A sequel, of sorts, to his previous book “Preservation” and possibly a book you could read having not read the first, but it would help. This book is set many years on from the first and light years ahead “ Preservation” in it’s execution. Wonderful stuff from one of Australia’s best writers.

  24. 5 out of 5

    Lyn

    This was such an interesting book for so many reasons. I loved the atmosphere created by the travel to the islands and not knowing who was friend or foe. I liked the stories of the indigenous people, and their various responses to white men. I enjoyed Eliza's narration and observations, particularly towards the end, where the thoughts were beautiful. I enjoyed the depiction of lives of that time. I haven’t read Preservation, but will seek it out. This was such an interesting book for so many reasons. I loved the atmosphere created by the travel to the islands and not knowing who was friend or foe. I liked the stories of the indigenous people, and their various responses to white men. I enjoyed Eliza's narration and observations, particularly towards the end, where the thoughts were beautiful. I enjoyed the depiction of lives of that time. I haven’t read Preservation, but will seek it out.

  25. 4 out of 5

    Declan Fry

    As in Preservation, Serong's period voice is assured, moving artfully out of sight in the narrative wings. The dialogue occasionally sees the author peeking from behind the curtains, though; it performs a lot of heavy lifting. Sentences strain for a gravitas that, spotlit between quotation marks, can feel bathetic. Continue reading: https://www.smh.com.au/culture/books/... As in Preservation, Serong's period voice is assured, moving artfully out of sight in the narrative wings. The dialogue occasionally sees the author peeking from behind the curtains, though; it performs a lot of heavy lifting. Sentences strain for a gravitas that, spotlit between quotation marks, can feel bathetic. Continue reading: https://www.smh.com.au/culture/books/...

  26. 4 out of 5

    Heather Boundy

    Each book I read of Jock Serong's I enjoy even more. Set in colonial NSW this story of quests and revenge is peopled with strong, believable characters and with a real sense of place - the Furneaux Group of island in Bass Strait. The history feels so real, and Serong's research of this time of escaped convicts, rough sealers and the barbaric treatment of the indigenous population is well worth the read. Impressive (would give four and a half stars if I knew how to do a half star! Each book I read of Jock Serong's I enjoy even more. Set in colonial NSW this story of quests and revenge is peopled with strong, believable characters and with a real sense of place - the Furneaux Group of island in Bass Strait. The history feels so real, and Serong's research of this time of escaped convicts, rough sealers and the barbaric treatment of the indigenous population is well worth the read. Impressive (would give four and a half stars if I knew how to do a half star!

  27. 4 out of 5

    Kim Wingerei

    Jock Serong doesn’t disappoint, but... A fascinating story well told, much of it feels authentic and is well researched. But where Preservation had a beginning a middle and an end, The Burning Island left me slightly disappointed at an ending that felt rushed and a bit incongruous. Still, it’s a good read and I learnt a lot.

  28. 4 out of 5

    Christine

    A very interesting novel about lesser known times in our early Australian history. I found it a little slow to start with but tensions really started to grow as the book progressed. It isn’t essential but reading the preceding novel before this one helps put the story in context.

  29. 5 out of 5

    Cel Jel

    The second in the series being written about the early days of settlement. Some ships have vanished. The owner thinks someone is sabotaging life and seeks out a man who would know the saboteur to go hunting for him on islands between Victoria and Tasmania. I found the twists interesting, but did not enjoy this book as much as the first one. I found the end worse.

  30. 4 out of 5

    Jill Lindquist

    This sequel to Preservation is a great read, beautifully written, well researched and moves at a cracking pace. I loved it!

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