Wrack

Overview

Nominated for Australia's Commonwealth Writer's Prize for Best First Book.

Nearing the end of his funding and absolutely desperate to find the ship, David hears about a decrepit old man named Kurt Seligman, who lies dying in a shack near the excavation site. Hoping by some chance that Seligman may know something about the location of the Portuguese ship and perhaps even about the identity of the dead man, David begins a conversation that yields a strange and impassioned tale, a ...

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Overview

Nominated for Australia's Commonwealth Writer's Prize for Best First Book.

Nearing the end of his funding and absolutely desperate to find the ship, David hears about a decrepit old man named Kurt Seligman, who lies dying in a shack near the excavation site. Hoping by some chance that Seligman may know something about the location of the Portuguese ship and perhaps even about the identity of the dead man, David begins a conversation that yields a strange and impassioned tale, a cryptic confession of obsessive love and betrayal in the 1930s and '40s. Sensuous, erudite, and framed by sixteenth- and eighteenth-century maritime history and myth, Wrack spins a web of lies, sex, and regret that is as unusual as it is beautiful.

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Editorial Reviews

Janice P. Nimura
...[A] novel in three layers: David's desperate bid to find the ship, Kurt's prewar memories of love and betrayal, and documentary interludes on the history of exploration and mapmaking....Wrack is taut with raw human need, both the hot-blooded romantic kind and a chillier ''reptilian hindbrain hunger'' for the remains of the ship.
The New York Times Book Review
Morning Herald-Sydney
Bradley writes wonderfully well. (Morning Herald (Sydney))
Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
A seamless fusion of dramatic wartime love story, historical fiction and archeological murder mystery, Australian writer Bradley's accomplished debut novel has a dreamlike compulsion. Archeologist David Norfolk, obsessively searching for a 16th-century Portuguese ship wrecked on the coast of New South Wales, digs up the body of a man shot to death 50 years earlier. An Ondaatjean hermit, cantankerous, cancer-ridden and living in a nearby shack, holds the clue both to the victim's identity and the ship's whereabouts. As David and his ex-girlfriend Dr. Claire Sen tend to the dying recluse, Kurt Seligmann, and resume a romance of their own, they listen to their patient reminisce about the years 1937-1942, when he was an archeologist from Sidney, living in occupied Singapore and embroiled in an affair with the wife of his mentor and best friend, Fraser McDonald. (The corpse on the beach, it turns out, could be Fraser.) Seligmann, too, once searched for the wreck that Norfolk seeks--a ship that, if found, could challenge Tasman and Cook's claim to have discovered the continent and would explain the presence of the land mass on Renaissance maps. Bradley adroitly interpolates details of the fierce rivalry between the 16th-century Spanish and Portuguese empires, and fascinating lore on mapmaking. His prose, which alternates between clipped, declarative statements and lyrical, metaphor-filled cadenzas, may make too sweet a meal for some readers. The novel's concluding words--"the past is... a shifting sea with nothing at its center, except illusions, and loss"--exemplifies the kind of generalization that weakens this otherwise suspenseful story. Yet Bradley's skill in interweaving the novel's strands to create a graceful meditation on death, ambition and obsession creates a memorable novel. (May) FYI: Wrack won two Australian literary awards and was shortlisted for the 1998 Commonwealth Writers Prize for best first book.
Library Journal
Having studied the literature, including 16th-century maps, archaeologist David Norfolk is convinced that contrary to what historians assert the Portuguese actually reached Australia. Now, to prove his point, he's digging up half the shoreline to discover the wreck of a Portuguese caravel he is convinced lies buried there. Instead he digs up a 50-year-old corpse that leads him to the hut of a terribly disfigured old man named Kurt with a savage story to tell. Because Kurt seems to know something about the wreck, David desperately wants to hear the story, so he insists on staying to care for Kurt in his dying days and even drafts a former lover with medical training to come to his aid. Kurt was mentored by renegade archaeologist Fraser, who was also searching for the caravel, but his desperate love for the enigmatic Veronica was foiled when she jilted him to become Fraser's wife. This story of love, death, and multiple betrayals sometimes reads like a thriller but has more important things on its mind. Perhaps the ending is a bit too obvious, but first novelist Bradley is less interested in guessing games than in the way our most desperate desires measure up to history. A multiple award winner from Australia that deserves to be read here.--Barbara Hoffert, "Library Journal" Copyright 1999 Cahners Business Information.
Janice P. Nimura
...[A] novel in three layers: David's desperate bid to find the ship, Kurt's prewar memories of love and betrayal, and documentary interludes on the history of exploration and mapmaking....Wrack is taut with raw human need, both the hot-blooded romantic kind and a chillier ''reptilian hindbrain hunger'' for the remains of the ship.
The New York Times Book Review
Kirkus Reviews
An archeologist searches for a Portuguese shipwreck in this young award-winning Australian writer's American debut.
From the Publisher
"Bradley writes wonderfully well." (Morning Herald (Sydney))

"A mesmeric journey into both our history and the human heart. Bradley has combined a fascinating meditation on the nature of myth, a murder mystery and the destructive allure of love in prose that shifts and shimmers with the beauty of fine poetry. A thrilling and assured debut." (Mathew Condon)

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9783612650191
  • Publisher: Econ-Verlag GmbH
  • Pages: 318

Meet the Author

James Bradley's first novel, Wrack, won the 1998 Fellowship of Australian Writers Literature Award and was shortlisted for the Commonwealth Writer's Prize. Holt will publish his next novel, The Deep Field, in the fall of 1999. He lives in Sydney.

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