Monday, May 22, 2017


by Andrea Jones

Offshore is a superb romantic thriller set against a background of refugee politics. In the near future the UK begins detaining asylum-seekers on the island of Alderney in the English Channel. A shady Australian company is contracted to run the operation. Into this ugly scenario comes Kate, a naive support worker fresh from London, and Abra, a Syrian refugee with a lot of charm and potential. Things get messy from there on in...

Australian writers often address themes of xenophobia but generally don’t write about real detention centres. It may be that publishers are keen to sidestep what is only the most contentious topic of the last twenty years, or it may be that writers feel they don’t know enough about the camps to write about them confidently (journalists are barred from Manus and Nauru). I found it interesting to see this author tackle the subject head-on. The premise of a UK offshore centre was unfortunately only too credible, yet it cleverly gave the author space to create a fictional narrative.

Concept aside however, I found the most admirable quality of this book was the prose. The writing is tight, with appropriate cultural references, no wasted sentences and lots of character detail. I found the characters very well defined, even considering the difficult territory explored in the second half of the book (no spoilers here). I especially found the female lead very believable. She is flawed, sexually impulsive, and somewhat unbalanced emotionally. The relationship between her and Abra felt quite fresh and different (this isn’t a “yawn” romance at all).

The plot is quite original, and generally smooth and convincing. I did however wonder why Kate was allowed so much freedom at the camp. Was she a volunteer or paid employee? It was all a bit vague. Also, Samuel seemed the type to simply kill a difficult detainee rather than set them free as he does in the middle of the book. I would have preferred a little more description about the detention centre and I thought the second half of the book was probably the strongest.

I have to say I enjoyed this book a great deal. Once I was a few pages in I wanted to keep reading and I found the prose elegant and a pleasure to read. Highly recommended.

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