"... I saw its great bulk heaving itself out of the sand that spilled from its spars like water, the screaming wind slicing it free from the grip of the hill, its broken shape like the belly of a dinosaur ... I crawled slowly towards it, eyes clenched shut against the storm, until its form enveloped me ...
"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 obssession, secrets and sexual passion from a lifetime before.
"Erotic, sensuous and erudite, Wrack spins a web of lies, sex and betrayal in a novel that is as unusual as it is beautiful."
"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 offine poetry. A thrilling and assured debut." - Matthew Condon
From the personal journal of William Townshend, Surgeon, aboard His Majesty's Vessel Berkeley.
17th August 1794
It comes as more than some little surprise to me that I am able to write these words: if I had been asked only twelve hours ago whether I believed I would survive to see the dawn my answer would have been a simple negative. Yet here I am, alive and, in good part at least, intact. The night just passed was truly the most terrifying I have ever known, and more than once I offered up prayers to the Almighty in the sure belief my hours on this earth were at an end.
The ship has been cast upon a shore unknown to the crew or the captain, yet we are some hundred leagues or more to the south of Port Jackson. I hope this place is not an indication of this land's true temper, for it is a miserable place; cold and windswept in the extreme, with little to offer in the way of comfort or succour after our long journey.
I am writing this several hours later, wishing to record a most worrying and curious sight I and several others have witnessed. The seas having subsided somewhat, the Captain and a group of a dozen or so men, including the repulsive Colvey, who seems to grow more repugnant with each passing day put ashore in the longboat. I accompanied them at the invitation of the Captain, who continues to treat me as a gentleman, although I detected in his offer to 'let me see the temper of my new home' a note of mischief. The seas, although smaller, were far from calm, and the landing of the boat was only achieved with some difficulty; all of us were soaked fairly to the skin by the time we landed, and the wind, which seemed to blow straight from the icebound lands of the Antarctic, cut through to our very marrow.
From the Vintage paperback edition, 1997.
This novel was shortlisted the Miles Franklin Award in 1998.
About the Author:
James Bradley was born in Adelaide, South Australia, in 1967. He studied at the University of Adelaide, where he completed a law degree and took honours in philosophy, and later at the University of South Australia and the Australian Film, Television and Radio School. He has worked as a law clerk, judge's associate, solicitor, research assistant and editor.
As well as writing and reviewing for newspapers and magazines he has written a book of poetry, Paper Nautilus, which was shortlisted for the 1995 National Book Council Banjo Awards, and edited Blur, an anthology of writing by young Australian writers, also published by Vintage. He lives in Sydney.
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Last modified: January 25, 2006.