Posted by: Lisa Hill | July 27, 2021

The Burning Island, by Jock Serong

This is going to be a brief review because I have a long boring day of medical appointments ahead. *Another* x-ray, the ortho surgeon, and then the rehab physio, punctuated by sitting outside in the car because the Covid rules mean I can’t wait in the waiting room. I am going to be much too cranky by day’s end to write anything.

So, The Burning Island. It’s Bk 2 in the Grayling Family series, and #SpoilerAlert I am already wondering how Serong is going to write Bk 3 because there’s not much left of the family now. Unless…hmmm…no, I’d best keep my speculations to myself. Enough for you to know that of course I will be reading Bk 3 when it comes out.

This is the blurb:

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.

There are some terrific characters in this novel, but what impressed me most was the way Serong is perfectly at home on board The Moonbird and writes so convincingly about weaving in and out of narrow coves without coming to grief on the rocks notorious for thousands of wrecks during the Age of Sail.  I wonder if he is a yachtsman?

I will admit that I cottoned onto a crucial plot element early on, but it was still enjoyable reading for those who enjoy historical fiction.  It’s respectful of the issues surrounding the activities of George Augustus Robinson and the terrible impact on Tasmania’s Aborigines; and it’s also truthful about the poignant lives of convicts so young that today they would just be starting secondary school.

Oh, and another thing… Serong has won an award for writing a thriller that doesn’t feature violence against women.  There are some gruesome murders in The Burning Island, but only one woman dies and that’s offstage because it happened long ago.  There is violence against Aboriginal women too, but it’s reported i.e. not lingered over in the salacious prose beloved of crime writers.

PS There’s a handy map which traces the voyage so that readers always know where they are!

Author: Jock Serong
Title: The Burning Island
Publisher: Text Publishing, 2020
ISBN: 9781922330086, pbk., 350 pages
Source: Personal library, purchased from Readings during Melbourne’s 2020 Lockdown.


Responses

  1. A lovely review, Lisa. And be as cheerful and patient as you can with all the medical appointments. Take a good book to read.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Oh, I feel for you, Lisa. A day of medical appointments under any circumstances isn’t much fun. But with covid restrictions thrown in, well, that makes it memorable, shall we say for politeness sake. Hang in there Lisa. the day will be over before you know it.
    I loved the Burning Island. Jock Sarong is one heck of a terrific writer. Many thanks for sharing your reveiw.

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  3. Jock Serong is an awesome writer, and I do hope your day is not too bad. Thinking of you.

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  4. Everyone is so sick of Covid. It is like Groundhound Day. Hope it all goes well.

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  5. Thinking of you and hoping all goes well.

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  6. Oh, I hope your wrist is OK Lisa. Doesn’t sound great if you are having to have more x-rays etc. Take care.

    I have still to read Serong, but I have one or two of his books here and will get to him one day.

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  7. There is a little bit of good news from today. Apparently when wrists break, the bones usually go sideways, or up or down so that the bones aren’t properly aligned. But mine are just nicely beside where they should be (just not actually connected) which will make knitting them back together again easier and quicker. So, still 6 weeks with the splint, but a better prognosis.
    I celebrated with a small Scotch when I got home.
    Plus, Victoria’s lockdown is easing. We still can’t have visitors in the home but we can meet up for coffee!

    Liked by 1 person

    • I was on the phone to mum today. I can’t go to her place – and we are both fully vaccinated – but if we want to meet we have to take our chances at the local cafe or pub. Doesn’t make sense.
      And yes, too many thrillers and mysteries have lovingly described and completely gratuitous violence.

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      • Sorry, Bill, anyone who’s fully vaccinated should be counting their blessings, not complaining!

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        • Still, I agree with Bill … it doesn’t make sense.

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          • It does, actually. You can’t have one rule for people who are sensible and another one for people who are not.

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            • No, but you can have rules like x number visit a home, or or a rule for fully vaccinated people. Hard to police, but it’s all hard to police, and chances are that some different rules for vaccinated will come?

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              • Well, I’m glad we have tough rules, and I’m glad that most Victorians abide by them whether they understand the reasons for them or not.

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                • Victoria certainly learnt a tough lesson, last year. 800 deaths is not a great record. Our kids in Melbourne support the rules. To be honest, I think most Australians do. I’m keen for us to think Australia-wide if we can, not pit states against each other, because you just don’t know what’s around the corner. Anyhow, you can imagine how nervous we Canberrans are about pollies coming into town next week. We’d rather they all stay away, and leave us alone!

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                • I’m really not in the mood for being told to think Australia wide. The Offspring is in hospital tonight with a life-threatening condition and I can’t visit him because NSW refused to lockdown properly when Blind Freddie could see that the Delta variant was being let loose into their regions and exported into our state and into SA.
                  Best if we conclude this discussion and stick to books.

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                • I’m really sorry Lisa … I hope he’s OK.

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    • Oh, that’s good news Lisa. Six weeks is a long time – but be good so they will stay properly aligned. A reckon that deserved a Scotch!

      Liked by 1 person

    • I bet you were relieved to get that diagnosis – yes there is healing still to be done but at least you know that it IS healing.

      Liked by 1 person

  8. Hope the medical stuff went ok Lisa!

    Liked by 1 person

  9. I’m adding this & Java Ridge to Mr Books wishlist – sounds like something he would enjoy immensely. Thanks
    Glad you had some good news re your wrist.

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  10. […] Serong’s The burning island (2020) (Lisa’s review): Another work of historical fiction, Serong’s novel is based on an actual shipwreck, the […]

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  11. […] The Burning Island, by Jock Serong (Text Publishing), see my review […]

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  12. […] The Burning Island, by Jock Serong (Text Publishing), see my review […]

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