On the windswept point of an island at the edge of Van Diemen’s Land, the Commandant huddles with a small force of white men and women. He has gathered together, under varying degrees of coercion and duress, the last of the Tasmanians, or so he believes. His purpose is to save them—from a number of things, but most pressingly from the murderous intent of the pastoral settlers on their country.
The orphans Whelk and Pipi, fighting for their survival against the malevolent old man they know as the Catechist, watch as almost everything proves resistant to the Commandant’s will. The wind, the spread of disease, the strange black dog that floats in on the prow of a wrecked ship…But above all the chief, the leader of the exiles, before whom the Commandant performs a sordid dance of intimacy and betrayal.
In The Settlement, Jock Serong reimagines in urgent, compelling prose the ill-fated exploits of George Augustus Robinson at the settlement of Wybalenna—a venture whose blinkered, self-interested cruelty might stand for the colonial enterprise itself.
`The Settlement is a shocking but perversely beautiful evocation of the endurance and dignity of Aboriginal resistance to the sadism of the colony’s God and guns. Its gripping plot, extraordinary Black and white characters, and elegant prose will haunt you long after the last page.‘
‘There is some kind of magic in the way Jock Serong conjures places and times and people.’
‘Serong is among many writers, including Tony Birch, Bruce Pascoe and Kate Grenville, looking closer at the history of colonisation and the narratives that have been handed down as authorised versions, but that need much closer scrutiny.’
‘Serong’s prose is evocative, his dialogue convincing.’
‘Grips from the first page. It’s unsentimental, truthful and profound – all in a milieu effortlessly imagined.’
‘An extraordinarily vivid imagining of one of the most significant encounters in Australian history.’
‘Serong’s finest work, and a story Australians should hear.’
‘[The Settlement is] compelling to read, and also powered by Serong’s descriptive, muscular prose…Reckoning comes in blazing moments of truth-telling, where the reality of this colonising project cannot be denied…This is a book that doesn’t let us readers off the hook—nor should it.’ Jackie Tang,
‘[Jock Serong] is undertaking important work of reckoning with Australia’s troubled history. [The Settlement] is part of that reckoning – an absolute must read.’
‘[A] darkly poignant, sadly true and painfully engaging story that rarely, if ever, makes it into Australian history books.’
‘Devastating…[Serong] animates the benighted settlement through pungent prose and uncanny summoning of place…A novel of empathy and intelligence.’
‘Traces of Charles Dickens, Cormac McCarthy, and Patrick White thread through his prose, which is often genre-based – the agile plotting and unexpected metaphor of Raymond Chandler is apparent here…The Settlement is deeply connected to history and prior literature.’
‘Compelling…powerful and evocative…[The Settlement] gives you thorough understanding of the power wielded by the early colonists, and the choices forced on those who didn’t have it.’
‘This is a book that must be read, from an author whose writing has reached new heights.’
‘Serong is a wonderful writer…he retains the gift of propulsive plots and gripping narratives. And readers interested in stories that face the complexity and complicity of our colonial past – paired with beautiful writing – will be intrigued by his latest novel.’
‘Moving and devastating.’
‘To the settlement’s confined, Serong invests appropriate human dignity denied by their oppressors and their history.’