Friday, November 4, 2011

Review: Bereft by Chris Womersley

"Dark, powerful and compelling!

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 NSW ' fly speck of a town' called 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.

 Superbly crafted literary crime fiction  Bereft quite simply blew me away and I may, at last, be cured of my aversion to books of less than 300 pages.

Quinn is what they called in those days 'shellshocked' and carrying the physical reminders of his wartime experience with a badly scarred face and lungs still fighting the effects of the gas. His condition reflects the main theme of the book - the aftermath of unnecessary, violent and destructive death on both the collective and individual levels and the effect it has on the survivors.

The book alternates between Quinn's quiet time in the hills, when he looks back and thinks about the past, and the action of the present when he secretly visits his mother and moves towards exposing the person responsible for the crime he was accused of. The presence of the strange fey Sadie adds an otherworldly quality to the story which gives it a haunting and often dreamlike tone.

Chris Womersley's writing is stunning , his prose may be sparse but his powerful imagery brought the Australian landscape and  the horror of the trenches vividly to life and drew me right into the hearts and minds of the characters. I know the ending won't suit some readers but I don't mind being left to do a little imagining of my own.

Loved it! Highly recommended.

Aussie Author Challenge


  1. Wow, great review! I don't know why the title for some reason reminds me of vampirical YA novels, but I'm glad to hear that I'm wrong and that this novel is so beautiful :-)

  2. I really must grab a copy of this title it sounds fabulous

    Shelleyrae @ Book'd Out

  3. I just finished reading this book, and saw your link on the Aussie Author Challenge. I loved this book too. I haven't read anything by Chris Womersley before, but I am certainly going to try to follow his career.