'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 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.' (From the publisher's website.)
'The article focuses on Bereft (2010), a novel by Australian writer Chris Womersley, which applies the framework of trauma to depict the (failed) reintegration of the returning soldiers after the First World War. Using Gothic and Apocalyptic tropes, Womersley addresses the question of the aftermath of violence in the lives of an Australian family and the Australian nation. By combining the insights of trauma and Gothic studies, the article demonstrates how Bereft undermines the meta-narrative of Australian participation in the First World War, questioning the myth of Anzac and national cohesion. It proposes to read the novel as an example of critical mourning, which, rather than cure from trauma, suggests a re-examination of the dramatic sequels of the imperial conflict. Rage seems to offer here an intriguing alternative to the forgetful practices of commemoration. By revising the militarized national mythology, Bereft redefines the First World War in terms of loss, trauma and desolation, and negotiates a place for broken bodies and minds in Australian cultural memory.' (Publication abstract)