Review: ‘Wrecker’, by Noel O’Reilly

Published by: HQ

Publication Date: 12th July 2018

Format: Hardback

Price: £12.99

IS.B.N.: 9780008274511


‘With echoes of Du Maurier, this compelling Cornish drama weaves a tangled web of fallen faiths, of sins, seductions and deceits.’ Essie Fox

A powerful debut exploring the dark side of Cornwall – the wrecking and the drowned sailors – where poverty drove villagers to dark deeds…

Shipwrecks are part of life in the remote village of Porthmorvoren, Cornwall. And as the sea washes the bodies of the drowned onto the beach, it also brings treasures: barrels of liquor, exotic fruit, the chance to lift a fine pair of boots from a corpse, maybe even a jewel or two.

When, after a fierce storm, Mary Blight rescues a man half-dead from the sea, she ignores the whispers of her neighbours and carries him home to nurse better. Gideon Stone is a Methodist minister from Newlyn, a married man. Touched by Mary’s sacrifice and horrified by the superstitions and pagan beliefs the villagers cling to, Gideon sets out to bring light and salvation to Porthmorvoren by building a chapel on the hill.

But the village has many secrets and not everyone wants to be saved. As Mary and Gideon find themselves increasingly drawn together, jealousy, rumour and suspicion is rife. Gideon has demons of his own to face, and soon Mary’s enemies are plotting against her

Gripping, beautifully written and utterly beguiling, Noel O’Reilly’s debut WRECKER is a story of love, injustice, superstition and salvation, set against Cornwall’s dark past

My Review

Told in first person by the main character and set in seventeenth century Cornwall, this book is interesting and fairly well-written. The main character is a young woman, Mary Blight, in a village of wreckers. When a ship crashes on the shore below their village, she is the last to get there. Finding nothing much of interest left, she comes upon the body of a young woman, dead, her ears torn where her earrings have been stolen. Our heroine takes her embroidered boots and encounters the village gossip, Auntie Madgie, who accuses her of killing the woman. Later, the dead woman is taken from the village by an agent of the woman’s husband and an investigation begins. It all goes downhill from there for Mary.

While atmospheric and well-written, I struggled with this novel. It’s such a shame because I was really looking forward to it. I don’t think it’s the book but because the writing style just didn’t suit me.

I would recommend it to fans of Karen Maitland. And Poldark.

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