Winner of Australian Independent Booksellers Indie Awards: Fiction 2011
Winner of Australian Book Industry Awards (ABIA) Awards: Literary Fiction Book of the Year 2011
Shortlisted for Miles Franklin Literary Award 2011
Nielsen BookData Booksellers Choice Award 2011
It is 1919. The Great War has ended, but the Spanish flu epidemic is raging across Australia. Schools are closed, state borders are guarded by armed men, and train travel is severely restricted. There are rumours it is the end of the world.
In the town of Flint, Quinn Walker returns to the home he fled ten years earlier when he was accused of an unspeakable crime. Aware that his father and uncle would surely hang him, Quinn hides in the hills surrounding Flint. There, he meets the orphan Sadie Fox — a mysterious young girl who seems to know more about the crime than she should.
A searing gothic novel of love, longing and justice, Bereft is about the suffering endured by those who go to war and those who are forever left behind.
'Bereft is a dark, brooding story of war, family secrets and a man's search for justice. Chris Womersley knows how to shine light into the darkest corners of rural Australia.' – MICHAEL ROBOTHAM
'Bereft is a beautiful novel . . . Womersley writes with such compelling power it is barely possible to put the book down.' – DEBRA ADELAIDE
About the Author
Chris Womersley was born in Melbourne in 1968. His fiction and reviews have appeared in numerous journals and anthologies, including Granta New Writing 14, Best Australian Stories 2006, The Monthly, and The Age. He won the Josephine Ulrick Literature Prize for short story in 2007. The Low Road, his first novel, was shortlisted for the 2006 Victorian Premier’s Award for an unpublished manuscript and won the Ned Kelly Award for Best First Book in 2008.
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Comments about Bereft:
Arguably the best writing that I have read in a decade. The only criticism is that prior to discovering Womersley I thought that I was a writer... no longer. I am not in the same league probably not on the same planet.
‘... a rich, gripping tale of love, loss, conflict and salvation ... This book is thoroughly enjoyable, compelling, moving, warm and completely memorable. I had that very rare experience of wanting to read it again, almost immediately. This book crosses the lines of popular fiction, literary fiction and mystery. It could be recommended to fans of Kate Grenville (though I think Womersley’s a more interesting writer), Tim Winton, Matthew Condon, Craig Silvey, Peter Carey, Peter Temple, Alex Miller and more.' (4.5 Stars) - Bookseller+Publisher
‘Bereft is a bleak and brilliant performance that confirms him as one of the unrepentantly daring and original talents in the landscape of Australian fiction ... Few recent novels, Australian or otherwise, have such eloquence, prompted by the despair of sufferers who do not shirk the task of seeking the right words. Few lead us so fearlessly to familiar locations made strange and terrifying or to others that seem conjured by old magic ... The last part of Bereft is frightening in a way that reminds one of why several reviewers of Womersley's first novel made comparisons with Cormac McCarthy ... This is an outstanding work of Australian fiction. Read it next.’ Sydney Morning Herald
‘Beautifully written and conceived, Bereft pushes at the borders of literary fiction and thriller, spinning a horrific incident in one man’s life into a page-turning reflection on grief and guilt, on the nature of storytelling and its inevitable joys and shortcomings, on what we have to believe in order to survive.’ The Age
‘War is the big drama of human horror, but the basest acts of cruelty are also enacted in what passes for peacetime. That Womersley can marry these two extremes, and construct a narrative in which the reader is left with a burning sense of regret and tenderness, is a mark of his skill and of his fictional reach. Australian Book Review
‘Who could fail to be excited by a writer who describes men in the trenches as "so muddied and grey about the gills they might have been fashioned from the earth itself", or so economically and disturbingly portrays the "mixture of the theatrical and the pious" at work at a seance in London's Marylebone?’ The Australian
‘Womersley cleverly unspools his grim story, cranking up the tension with Dickensian flourishes and questions about war, existence, love and evil. Australian Literary Review
‘Like all great literary fiction, Bereft aspires to go beyond the surface, beyond flimsy pay-offs and superficial triumphs. In doing so, it confronts such pillars as loss, longing and revenge, and sears itself into memory.’
‘Bereft can be read as a gothic novel, a crime novel, a ghost story, a thriller. Whatever, this is a book of searing, heart-wrenching brilliance that should appeal to a wide range of readers. Simply put, Bereft is one of the best books I’ve read this year.’ Overland Journal
‘This is an extraordinary book - haunting, moving and exquisitely written, one that will stay with the reader long after it’s been put down.’ Notebook Magazine
‘The quiet, whispering tone of this book will linger long after you’ve finished it.’ Courier Mail
‘Bereft is a haunting and beautiful novel that will surely deliver an excellent Australian writer to a much wider audience.’ Courier Mail
‘Womersley’s gothic-tinged portrait of isolated, rural Australia devastated by war and flu is mesmerising.’ MX
‘He's been compared to Cormac McCarthy. Pretty big shoes to fill. But donning a thick pair of socks, Womersley has a good shot in this follow-up to his lauded The Low Road ... brooding Southern gothic goes feral NSW.'
'Bereft is a beautiful novel, which is a strange thing to say about a tale of so much loneliness, injustice and anguish. But somehow Chris Womersley peers deep into the suffering heart and sees beyond the pain that humans inflict on each other, to a pace where dignity, loyalty and even affection might blossom. He writes with such compelling power it is barely possible to put the book down.’ - Debra Adelaide
‘Bereft is a dark, brooding story of war, family secrets and a man’s search for justice. Chris Womersley knows how to shine light into the darkest corners of rural Australia.’ - Michael Robotham
Number Of Pages: 272
Published: 10th March 2011
Publisher: Scribe Publications
Dimensions (cm): 19.8 x 12.9
Weight (kg): 0.256