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.

Read a flip-book of the first few chapters right here


‘... 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 Full review

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 Full Review

‘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 Full Review

‘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 (UK) Full Review

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 (UK)

‘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 Full Review

‘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.’
Readings Magazine Full Review

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 Full Review

‘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 Full Review

‘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.'
Qantas Magazine

'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

Winner ABIA Literary Fiction Book of the Year
Winner of Indie Award for Best Novel
Shortlisted for The Age Book of the Year
Shortlisted for 2011 Miles Franklin Award
Shortlisted for ASL Gold Medal for Literature
Shortlisted for Ned Kelly Award for Fiction
Shortlisted for CWA Gold Dagger
Longlisted for Dublin IMPAC Award