Posted by: Lisa Hill | February 18, 2011

Sensational Snippets: Bereft (2011) by Chris Womersley

People around here talked when they had nothing better to do and invented facts to fill the spaces in their knowledge,  the way ancient cartographers surmised entire continents into existence. 

Bereft p 72


In his father’s slumping shoulders, in the expressions that flittered across his weathered features, Quinn saw something of their family’s terrible story, the way wind was visible when it ruffled a field of wheat.

Bereft p 103-4

Bereft, by Chris Womersley, Scribe Publications 2010, see my review.

BTW If you subscribe to Whispering Gums (and I recommend that you do) you may have noticed that my friend Sue has just begun a series called Delicious Descriptions from Down Under almost contemporaneously with the launch of my Sensational Snippets series.   Just in case you are wondering if one of us has pinched the idea from the other, no indeed, it is a case of synchronicity, of ‘great minds thinking alike’!


  1. Heard great things about this, can’t wait to read it


  2. Thanks Lisa for these great quotes.
    I have just heard the news about the financial woes of Angus and Robertson booksellers and today have made a visit to my local independent bookseller to purchase a copy of Bereft. The owner was very apologetic having sold out and mentioned this caused her great distress as it has been selling extremely well and flying off the shelves. She will have a copy for me early next week. Then my next stop was the post office and the man behind the counter asked if I had heard the news about A & R which I think may have been a sly dig at the fact I have a few book parcels delivered. My reply was that I had in fact just bought a book at the bookstore!


    • HI Jenny, gee, you woudln’t think the postie would be having a go at you over receiving materials by post!
      I’ve read a fair bit about how these two shops have suffered from the rise in online sales – but I doubt if that’s the cause. I don’t rejoice in their demise but I have to say that I’m hardly going to weep about the loss of an American superstore that came here with the express intention of killing off local bookshops, and succeeded in doing just that in many places. I’ve only ever bought one book from Borders and that was because I was in Canberra and didn’t know my way around. Nothing about the store impressed me. It was just big, that’s all.
      As for A&R, well, my local A&R has nothing but dross. I’m not silly, I know that bookshops aren’t viable if they only cater to lovers of literary fiction. But they drive away lovers of literary fiction if they don’t keep it separate from the dross, and if they don’t get some new quality titles in from time to time. Their staff are friendly and polite but in general they know nothing about books and they don’t even know what they’ve got in stock. As it happens I went into my local A&R today on the way home from school to buy a nice gift book for a birthday gift for my neighbour’s little girl, but they had nothing suitable at all.
      I spend plenty of money in real local bookshops, but none in A&R because they don’t meet my needs.


      • Yes I have only visited a Borders store once in Canberra myself and I can remember when buying my selected book it felt like lining up at a supermarket checkout.


        • I went in a Melbourne Borders once out of curiosity because I heard they had such a great range, but I wandered around for about 20 minutes without finding anything to read.
          And the atmosphere, yes, you’re right, it didn’t feel like a bookshop.


  3. ‘The way wind was visible when it ruffled a field of wheat’ will stay with me and probably lull me to sleep tonight. Beautiful.


    • It’s gorgeous, isn’t it? It was one of those moments when, reading in bed at night and trying to drift off to sleep, I had to sit up and get out the reading journal and jot it down, to make sure I didn’t lose it.


  4. Thanks Lisa for the clarification on our series… this does sound like a beautiful book.


  5. I went to Borders today. I was given a voucher 10 months ago and finally spent half of it a month or so ago thinking I had another couple of months to spend it. Silly me. I had to match the dollar amount to spend it. That’ll teach me for hanging on to vouchers.

    Anyhow, I must say that while the Canberra Borders isn’t like the lovely independent stories, I have always been impressed by its range. I have bought things there occasionally – when on special or using one of their weekly deal vouchers – because they are at the bottom of the escalators from the Dendy cinema which we frequent.

    Today I had trouble choosing – do I buy Amos Oz or the David Malouf I want to re-read or a vintage Somerset Maugham or a Robert Drewe I haven’t read or a William Trevor or do I buy another poetry book (as I bought a Les Murray one with the first part of the voucher). I wandered around picking up this book and that from the above authors and more. In other words, I think their range is pretty good really, but the feel and service isn’t like a small owner-operated indie is it.

    I ended up buying an Amos Oz and a JM Coetzee – but it was hard.


    • By coincidence I happened upon a Borders when I was in town today. After school I went in to the Wheeler Centre to hear a discussion about Patrick White (and there met David (Glissando) Musgrave who wrote Glissando, what a lovely man, and he’s writing another novel – hooray!)
      Parking was across the road at Melbourne Central where you get a discount on a rather hefty charge if you buy something, and lo! there was a Borders. I went in, and asked where their literary fiction section was, and no, they don’t have one. LitFic is shelved in with general fiction.
      So someone like me with ten minutes to find a book has to hunt through shelves and shelves of dross to find anything interesting? It might work fine if I know what I’m looking for, but I wouldn’t stumble across some interesting new author (like David Musgrave) and IMO browsing is no fun at all if I waste a lot of time looking at stuff that’s not of any interest.
      So I went into a pharmacy and bought some eye drops instead.


      • I actually don’t mind mixing Lit and General Fiction together (as they do separate out all the genre stuff). A&R used to separate Lit and General (still do I think) and you could never really be sure what would be where. It usually made sense of course but it didn’t enough to be a bit irritating to me. But, I do agree that browsing through their pretty large range of general/lit fiction is time consuming. I rarely browse there – today I did because I wanted to finish off the gift voucher. Usually I’ve had a 30% off voucher: I ring to see if they’ve got what I want and 70-80% of the time they do and then Len collects it for me or I get it when we go to the movies.

        I have no great love for Borders – prefer the independents and online – but I’ll be sad to see them go in terms of the general reading public. People are suggesting that that whole parallel import issue might have done them in… such a complicated issue. Dymocks are still going here but have closed half their stores over recent years. QBD is going but its range is pretty minimal (though they do have their Lit section!). We have a few independents that seem to be hanging in there…

        Meanwhile, our only really quality CD store went in the last month or so …

        The “entertainment” retail world is changing significantly …


        • I think you’re right about the entertainment industry in general. Tim buys nearly all his music online now, and it’s actually better because you can preview music much more easily online than you ever could in a shop.
          Books? Well, I want both. I support booksellers bringing interesting books that aren’t available here in Oz cheaply enough for me to buy, and I’ll always support my favourite independent bookshops, buying locally and putting links to their stores on nearly all my Aussie titles on the blog.


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