Home ContentBook Review: From the Wreck by Jane Rawson

Book Review: From the Wreck by Jane Rawson

Published : June 09, 2017

Historical fiction with sci-fi elements provide a unique insight into human and alien conflict.

Words: Juanita Pirozzi

From the Wreck begins in 1859 when 24-year-old George Hills is working as a steward on the steamship, Admella. As he goes about his duties, George is captivated by the presence of a woman on board known as Bridget Ledwith. Unfortunately, the Admella sails into a rough swell and sinks into South Australian waters. With the number of survivors decreasing, George and Bridget float in the freezing ocean for eight days, clinging onto what is left of the Admella until they are finally rescued. Years later George is still dealing with the psychological effects of the Admella shipwreck; along with his curiosity about the mysterious Bridget Ledwith who he hasn’t seen since. The book also tells the story of an alien life form who is now living on Earth and desperately looking for a way to belong in the human world.

Personally, I found From the Wreck to be an interesting read, particularly the narrative from the alien’s point of view. Rawson injects an element of suspense about this character in that she gives very little detail as to its physical appearance. Asking myself ‘What is this creature supposed to be? And how does it relate to George?’ is what kept me turning the pages as I progressed in my reading of this book. I liked how Rawson used the alien sub-plot and the character development of Henry, George’s oldest son, mid-way through the story as diversions from the main plot. Whether Rawson meant to or not, I found this tactic both fascinating and frustrating because I was keen to find out when or if there would be a resolution to George’s inner conflict. 

That being said, a large portion of the book focused on Henry’s point of view. I was put off by this at first because I found Henry’s conversations with his Uncle William longwinded; and Henry's makeshift science experiments involving the corpses of vermin was slightly unsettling. I also didn’t care for Beatrice Gallwey, a middle aged woman who reluctantly looks after her abandoned grandson. Eventually I understood what Beatrice’s purpose was as a character however minimal.

Rawson used simple language with a polite, semi-formal tone which was consistent for the majority of the book. This made it easy for me as a reader to capture the use of imagery, particularly in the historical fiction context. I liked how the narrative implies certain character actions and how suggestive the dialogue was in certain scenes. However I found Rawson's use of repetition throughout the text became tedious at times; her point was clear enough without repeating words such as: “on and on and on and on,” “hour after hour after hour,” and let’s not forget “over and over and over.”

Overall I thought Rawson succeeded in taking a piece of South Australian maritime history and turning it into a work of fiction. Most readers may be unaware that George Hills is Rawson’s great-great-grandfather who survived the actual Admella shipwreck in 1859. Bridget Ledwith was also one of the survivors.

From the Wreck is published by Transit Lounge and is available for purchase on their website.

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VALID to 4 JUNE 2020


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