Bereft

It is 1919. The Great War has ended, but the Spanish flu epidemic is raging through 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 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 a mysterious young girl called Sadie Fox, who encourages him to seek justice — and seems to know more about the crime than she should. 

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
— Bookseller and Publisher
Chris Womersley has written a narrative that grips like a dingo’s jaws, but at the same time gives us those glimpses into human motivation, that particular gift of evoking atmosphere, which characterise the most satisfying literature.The descriptions of the Australian bush, the physicality of its earth and wild life, have a precise and transporting intensity. So do the details of the small community, its impoverished lifestyle and rough, minimal possessions. But the real brilliance of the book lies in the character of Quinn and his slow emergence from the state of fear inflicted in the trenches, until he has the courage to face the aggressor. It is a journey towards maturity until eventually he must grapple with the bogeyman of childhood. This is a distinguishable novel.
— The Independent
Just once in a while a thriller comes along that is so good it takes your breath away. Australian journalist Womersley’s second novel does that in a heartbeat … It’s a thriller worthy of Hitchcock: taut, poignant and unexpected.
— Daily Mail
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
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
— Sydney Morning Herald
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