Wrack is my first novel. Originally published in Australia in 1997, it went on to be published in the UK and the US, to be translated into a number of languages, and to win both the Federation of Australian Writers Literary Award and the Kathleen Mitchell Literary Award, as well as being shortlisted for several other awards, including both the Miles Franklin Award and the Commonwealth Writers Prize for Best First Book (SE Asia and Pacific Region). Following the success of The Resurrectionist Faber have recently issued a very handsome new edition in the UK.
The blurb from the original Australian edition reads:
“While searching for the wreck of a Portuguese ship in the sandhills of the southern coast of New South Wales, archaeologist David Norfolk stumbles upon the body of a man murdered fifty years before.
“In a shack nearby an old man lies dying. He too knows something of the ship, and perhaps also its connection to the centuries-old enigma of Java la Grande, a shadowy continent to the south of Timor charted by French mapmakers in the sixteenth century.
“But does the old man have the information David needs? Does he hold a vital clue to the identity of the buried corpse? Determined to know the truth, David uncovers a story of obsession, secrets and sexual passion from a lifetime before.”
In 2006 I wrote this short piece for The Age’s First Voice column looking back at the writing of Wrack.
The Sydney Morning Herald Best Young Novelists 1998
Fellowship of Australian Writers Literature Award
Kathleen Mitchell Literary Award
Shortlisted for the Miles Franklin Award and the Commonwealth Writers Prize for Best First Book (SE Asia and Pacific Region).
“[T]aut with raw human need, both the hot-blooded romantic kind and a chillier “reptilian hindbrain hunger”.”
The New York Times
“A gripping murder mystery; a tragic wartime romance; a detailed account of the colonial rivalry between Portugal and Spain: James Bradley’s ambitious first novel is all of these things. . . . There’s no denying Bradley’s ability to keep you feverishly turning the pages.
“Wrack is that rare thing: the product of an individual imagination that manages to fashion something fresh and fine. . . The reason is threefold. In the first place, Bradley has taken great care to combine his novel’s disparate elements into a harmonious whole. Second, Wrack is informed by a tactful and subdued but nonetheless vital moral imagination. Bradley is not content merely to tell a good story, he goes on to probe his characters’ ambiguous and murky lusts – for each other as much as for the buried ship. The last of the novel’s virtues is, I think, the most important and most easily stated. It is simply this: almost without exception, Bradley writes wonderfully well throughout.”
Andrew Riemer. The Sydney Morning Herald
“Tinkering with human perceptions of history and fiction, fact and memory, this outstanding novel draws you in via a binding, exhausting three-way relationship between the archaeologist and his former girlfriend and a dying old man who knows where the ship is but won’t tell.”
The Daily Mail
“Remarkably successful in its cohesion and strangely satisfying in the questions it poses. Bradley’s prose is imaginative, articulate and lyrical, using different tenses and narrative voices to highlight the difficulties of being certain in a world fuelled by personal ambition and deceit. . . . Wrack is an impressive work, refreshing and enjoyable.”
“Ambitious in scope and confident in execution, Wrack is a strong first novel, combining elements of murder-mystery, romance, history and myth in ways that challenge the validity of such distinctions and emphasise the importance of story-telling in making sense of the world . . . the underlying power of the narrative carrying it to a conclusion that is as shocking as it is inevitable.
The Times Literary Supplement
“Ingenious in its conception and showing great skill in its execution, with the meaning of life, love, death and obsession glowing through the pages.”