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…
Mary Blight finds a women’s body washed up on Porthmorvoren shore and takes something that doesn’t belong to her. Littered across the sand are fine clothes, sparkling jewels, tasty fruits and brilliant trinkets once possessed by a nearby wreckage’s wealthy passengers. They are now treasure for the poor villagers of Porthmorvoren to sell. What the villagers – and Mary herself – do not know is that peril came in on the tide with all of those treasures, peril that will in the months ahead draw the gaze of the whole county to their small cove.
When Mary sees a man drowning in the cove, she leaps into the sea to save him. A risk easily taken; a risk easily regretted. Mary takes him home despite a warning from her sister Tegan because she is entranced by the man and she is determined to nurse him back to health. Over the weeks that follow, Gideon Stone, as he is known, grows stronger and soon begins to change Porthmorvoren. Taking up the mantle of its old Methodist minister, he decides to finish building the chapel and bring light into the small village. As so many of the local women scrounge his attention, Mary sees an opportunity to slot herself into his life. After agreeing to be the villages’ new teacher, Mary and Gideon travel to Newlyn so she can start her lessons. But her life is about to change. And not for the better. Because suspicion and jealousy are brewing in the streets of Porthmorvoren and Mary is the one who will suffer.
Mary is different from the other women in the village, they see her as a bit of an enigma. She wants something more than to settle down with a local man and be a good wife. She wants a future where she isn’t tied down and forced to do as tradition dictates. In Gideon she sees a future for herself that could be extraordinary, a life of freedom. Wrecker is suffused with atmosphere, emotion and an incredible detail that will tether you to its pages.
Noel O’Reilly exquisitely encapsulates the brooding mystery of Cornwall’s dark past in his sumptuous prose. I grew up in Cornwall and for a whole day this book transported me back to its rugged beauty and rekindled that fascination and wonder about its history. Brimming with unforgettable characters – especially heroine Mary Blight – and an atmosphere and detail that steals your breath away, Wrecker is a stunning tale of jealousy, revenge and love set against a backdrop where the only rival for its darkness and depth, is its beauty and mystery!
Atmospheric. Compelling. Exquisite.
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About Noel O’Reilly
Noel O’Reilly was a student on the New Writing South Advanced writing course. He has worked as a journalist and editor at the international business media company RBI, and is now a freelance writer. This is his first novel. He lives in Brighton with his wife and children.
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Huge thanks to Joe Thomas, Kate Mills and HQ for my review copy!