Bereft
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Bereft

Chris Womersley

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

Review

Bereft is the latest literary wallop from a burgeoning voice in Australian fiction. (The award-winning author of The Low Road.)

Set largely in drought-stricken pastoral New South Wales, with the rampaging Spanish flu and the last sputters of World War I as company, this remarkable gothic tale follows Quinn Walker as he returns home from exile to face up to a harrowing past, one that circles around his murdered sister and fractured family. The story smoulders along, collaring the reader in ever-tightening circles, and Quinn becomes less and less reliable in his world of secrets and shrouded memories, and more and more compelling for his fragility and compassion.

From a returning soldier’s ache for a single orange to the abrupt disemboweling of a lost lamb, Chris Womersley’s bleak and merciless novel forces the reader to be present at every moment. There is little solace to be found and innocence is absent; even children and animals shoulder heavy burdens. But like all great literary fiction, Bereft aspires to go beneath the surface, beyond flimsy payoffs and superficial triumphs. In doing so it confronts such pillars as loss, longing and revenge, and sears itself into memory.

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