Miriam Cosic reviews 'On the Java Ridge' by Jock Serong

Miriam Cosic reviews 'On the Java Ridge' by Jock Serong

On the Java Ridge

by Jock Serong

Text Publishing, $29.99 pb, 312 pp, 9781925498394

A rich vein of political writing runs through Australian fiction. From the early days of socialist realism, through the anti-colonialism of both black and white writers, to tough explorations of identity politics today, we have struggled with concepts of justice and equality since Federation.

The rejection of asylum seekers who arrive by a certain means of transport is the latest topic to galvanise fiction and non-fiction writers. In non-fiction, books have included many accounts of individuals’ perilous journeys fleeing repression and physical horror, historical surveys, and political analyses. In fiction, a monotone has arisen, though specific instances can be marvellous: a melange of sympathy towards refugees; anger with the ungenerosity of those refusing them; and a slightly patronising take on exotic otherness among Australian-born writers; and an explanatory focus on otherness by migrants, often romanticised, as they work to raise both consciousness and acceptance among old Australians.

Jock Serong has tried something different in his new novel, On the Java Ridge. It is ambitiously written in three concurrent, interleaving parts, with three protagonists: a nine-year-old Hazara girl, Roya, who has fled Afghanistan with her pregnant mother and is attempting the last crossing from Indonesia to Australia in a smuggler’s boat; a feisty counter-cultural Aussie, Isi Natoli; and Cassius Calvert, the Australian minister for ‘Border Integrity’.

Read the rest of this article by subscribing to ABR Online for as little as $10 a month.

We offer a range of subscription options, including print, which can be found by clicking here. If you are already a subscriber, enter your username and password in the ‘Log In’ section in the top right-hand corner of the screen.

If you require assistance, contact us or consult the Frequently Asked Questions page.

Miriam Cosic

Miriam Cosic

Miriam Cosic is a Sydney-based journalist and critic. She is the author of two books.

Published in August 2017, no. 393

Leave a comment

Please note that all comments must be approved by ABR and comply with our Terms & Conditions.

NB: If you are an ABR Online subscriber or contributor, you will need to login to ABR Online in order to post a comment. If you have forgotten your login details, or if you receive an error message when trying to submit your comment, please email your comment (and the name of the article to which it relates) to comments@australianbookreview.com.au. We will review your comment and, subject to approval, we will post it under your name.