Review - Norfolk, Noleen Jordan
NORFOLK tells a story that has particular resonance in Australia at present - asylum seekers arriving by boat. The substance of the story is covered by the blurb, but in essence, desperate people quickly overwhelm the idyllic community, and government responses are heavy handed enough to cause revolt. From the early arrivals, and the positive responses of the local people, the plot proceeds in a very straight-forward manner to the difficult situation described.
Along the way a lot of characters are introduced, and expanded well enough to allow readers to follow and stay up to speed with who is who. The idea behind this novel is really believable, but unfortunately, for this reader, some of the execution of elements feel very understated. Large portions of the book read as reportage as opposed to fiction, spelling out facts without injecting emotion, or providing a lot that the reader can connect with or "participate in". Perhaps because of the style adopted, that lack of emotional seems to be reflected in the actions of participants in the end. Which kind of doesn't gell with the sorts of life and death struggles that are underway.
A tiny tropical paradise off the coast of Australia, Norfolk Island is notoriously laid-back, its inhabitants friendly and independent-minded. They have to be—with no defences and no way to get immediate assistance from the mainland, Norfolk’s population learned to be self-reliant.
When the first boats of refugees arrive, the island welcomes them, offering food, clothing, and shelter. Then more boats arrive, followed by even more…overwhelming the islanders’ abilities to provide assistance. Outnumbered by desperate refugees, the inhabitants appeal to the distant Australian government for help.
When the government finally responds to the crisis, it does so by demanding all refugees relocate to a processing facility in Papua New Guinea. Unwilling to leave and risk their newfound security, the refugees take control of the island, destroying communication systems and seizing the airport.
What began as a desperate search for asylum has become an incursion—an invasion Norfolk’s population has no way to combat. They are on their own.
Chillingly plausible, Norfolk imagines a conflict between nations and refugees that could well come to pass, where a genuine need for asylum devolves into aggression and terrorism.