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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 rumors it is the end of the world.

In the NSW town of Flint, Quinn Walker returns to the home he fled ten years earlier when he was accused of an unspeakable crime. Award 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.

  • Book Title: Bereft
  • Author: Chris Womersley
  • Publisher: Scrib Publications
  • Publishing Date: 2010
  • ISBN: 9781921640605
  • Number of Pages: 266
  • Sample Reading: Please click on the following images. Showing 3 of 16.

Bereft 1 of 3 Bereft 2 of 3 Bereft 3 of 3


  • Winner of the ABIA Literary Fiction Book of the Year 2011
  • Winner of the Indie Award for Fiction 2011
  • Shortlisted for the Miles Franklin Award 2011
  • Shortlisted for the Age Book of the Year Award
  • Shortlisted for the ALS Gold Medal 2011
  • Shortlisted for the Nielsen BookData 2011 Booksellers Choice Award
  • Shortlisted for the Ned Kelly Award for Best Fiction

Selected Reviews:

  • "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." ~ Peter Pierce (Sydney Morning Herald)
  • "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 place 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
  • "From the very first sentence [Chris Womersley] had me captivated. 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." ~ Irma Gold (Overland online)
  • "A rich, gripping tale of love, loss, conflict and salvation... [Bereft] 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 Gondon, Graig Silvey, Peter Carey, Peter Temple, Alex Miller and more." (4.5 STARS) ~ Angela Meyer (Bookseller & Publisher)
  • "Reminiscent of Cormac McCarthy and William Faulkner, both in the bare beauty of its prose and in the undercurrent of things strange and unexpected that swirls around its edge... a wholly memorable book." ~ Diane Stubbings (Canberra Times)
  • "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
  • "From the hook of its first sentence, Bereft is a hard book to put down... Womersley combines really beautiful and eloquent writing with a compelling story, and Bereft has a literary sensibility flavored with the drama of a mystery... Bereft is a haunting and beautiful novel that will surely deliver an excellent Australian writer to a much wider audience." ~ Lucy Clark (Sunday Telegraph)
  • "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." ~ Jennifer Levasseur (Age)
  • "Chris Womersley, in plain and startling yet tender and lyrical prose, has constructed a moving narrative that opens up the wounds of war, laying bare the events that pre-date the conflict and reach forward into the collective memory... 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." ~ Carmel Bird (Australian Book Review)
  • "It must have been some expression on Chris Womersley's face after the eureka moment when Bereft was born. First, excitement at the potential of setting an Australian gothic novel in the immediate aftermath of World War I, during the influenza epidemic that turned rural Australia into a patchwork of plague villages; then, anxiety that someone else might write it first. I would have hugged the manuscript to my person like Gollum's ring." ~ Geordie Williamson (Weekend Australian)
  • "Reading Bereft feels as though you are being whispered stories of horror, longing and betrayal in a voice that is at once irredeemably grief-stricken and infinitely comforting." ~ Alice Nelson (Western Australian)
About Chris Womersley:  

Chris Womersley is the award-winning author of two novels, Bereft (2010) and The Low Road (2007), as well as numerous short stories and occasional book reviews and essays.

He has recently been shortlisted for the Australian Indie Awards, alongside some other wonderful Australian writers such as Kim Scott, Roger McDonald and Fiona McGregor.

Two anthologies in which he has short stories are now available in all good bookstores. These are Best Australian Stories 2010, edited by the illustrious Cate Kennedy, and New Australian Stories 2.0, edited by the equally illustrious Aviva Tuffield.

Chris Womersley has recently appeared in Australia's Bellingen Readers and Writers Festival, as well as the Perth Writers' Festival.

Other Works by Chris Womersley:  

The Low Road, winner of Net Kelly Award 2008, tells the story of Lee, a young petty criminal who wakes in a seedy motel with a bullet in his side and a suitcase of stolen money, his memory hazy as to how he got there.

Soon he meets Wild, a morphine-addicted doctor who is escaping his own disastrous life, and the two men set out for the safety of the country estate of a former colleague of Wild's.

As they flee the city, they develop an uneasy intimacy, inevitably revisiting their pasts even as they desperately seek to evade them. Lee is haunted by a brief stint in jail, while Wild is on the run from the legacy of medical malpractice.

But Lee and Wild are not alone: they are pursued through an increasingly alien and gothic landscape by the ageing gangster Josef, who must retrieve the stolen money and deal with Lee to ensure his own survival.


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