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Wrecker Reader Reviews


Belle Wodward

Saving a life gives Mary Blight ideas above her station…ideas that lead to lies…lies that lead to forbidden love…which leads to consequences.

Mary Blight is a memorable heroine. Strong and feisty she is as hot blooded as her hair is red. Eking out a living in the close-knit community of Porthmorvoren, she is as guilty of stealing from the dead of a wrecked vessel as the rest of the inhabitants. Vessels offered by the sea are accepted gratefully, no-one is ever turned over to the authorities and what takes place on the beach stays on the beach. But Mary dreams of escape, of leaving the narrow minded, superstitious village behind. When she saves preacher Gideon Stone from the sea, she sees him as her saviour, regardless that he is a married man.
Consumed with religious fervour, Gideon embarks on building a chapel for the village; driven by his own demons, he is desperate to save others from theirs. His desire to help Mary is seized upon by the women, their jealousy instigating a chain of events that can only have one ending.
Wrecker is a great read. It evokes the Cornish landscape, the mystery of the age-old customs, the link between the people and the land and their endless struggle to survive. The characters are strong, some more likeable than others, but all believable. You feel yourself rooting for Mary, even though she is mightily flawed: she tries, she works hard and she strives for a better life. Yes, she lies, she thieves she snoops, but she has her own morality and sticks to it. Excellent.

Sharon Wood

Historical novel looking at the hard life lived by the tough villagers of a remote Cornish village who make their life from fishing, farming and relieving shipwrecks of their cargoes and treasures.

Wrecker is set in the early 19th century, presumably (the frontispiece says ten years after the French wars or thereabouts) in a remote and impoverished Cornish village called Porthmorvoren. Villagers scrape a living fishing and salting the catch, farming, and “wrecking” - relieving the occasional ship which founders and breaks on the dangerous coastal rocks of its cargo and treasures.

It is during the frenzied activity of such a shipwreck that we meet the main character Mary Blight, a Demelza lookalike from the famous Cornish novels Poldark. Mary lives with her ailing mother and sister with very little and during the chaos of the smuggling operation she pulls a pair of fine boots from a noble woman washed up on the freezing beach early on a winters morning. Most of the woman’s possessions have already been looted, including her earrings which have been bitten off her, leaving her ears lobeless and bloodied.

Mary then spies a half-drowned man in the sea who she rescues and against moral convention takes home to nurse. When the man’s delirium passes he turns out to be Gideon Stone, a Methodist preacher from Newlyn who attempts to rescue the villagers of their pagan and Godless ways with the building of a new chapel and plenty of Hell and brimstone sermons. Mary begins to fall for the enigmatic preacher.

I enjoyed the historical flavour of the novel and the imagery of the very hard life lived by the tough villagers in a beautiful setting. The social observations were very good. However, I wasn’t so keen on the many references to the scriptures (although no doubt well researched and referenced) and the sometimes meandering discussions on religion. Nor did I particularly like or identify with Mary, who although at times showed feistiness and determination, seemed mainly determined to get a man. Probably a justifiable objective in the early 1800’s, but not so understandable or identifiable for a 21st century reader. I especially disliked Gideon Stone and I was never sure from the writing what his motives or intentions were. It may have been that he was troubled and in turmoil from his emotions versus his religious conviction and the fact that he was a married man, but that never came through and his one-dimensional characterisation without deeper explanation never made me warm to or sympathise with him and his seemingly often unexplainable shifting moods.

My main critique is that there wasn’t very much of story. I thought the author was very effectively building a sense of impending disaster, or maybe a fulfilling happy ending as I read through the book, but ultimately nothing happened and the ending was, to my mind, unsatisfactorily odd.

christine woolfenden

A really interesting tale set in Cornwall's dark past, when ships were lured onto the rocks and their goods scavenged. A sort of cross between Daphne du Maurier and Charles Dickens.

Forget cream teas and picturesque villages, this is a Cornwall of a dark and murky past, when poverty and callousness were rife.
Our main character, Mary Blight, is a young woman of dubious character who rescues a man, Gideon Stone,from drowning. Their lives become entwined as she schemes to raise herself to a better more prosperous life. Although love is at the heart of their story, it cannot be called a romance, it is too dark and dismal for that. She believes that Gideon is the answer to escaping her life of drudgery.
This is not a story full of action and adventure, indeed some parts are rather dwelt upon overlong. The description of the Wreckers scavenging the shipwreck is quite shocking at the start.The story is mainly concerned with Mary's relationship with Gideon and her fight for survival in the village.
I found this book historically interesting but struggled to empathise with Mary. I also thought the ending was rather ambiguous, maybe the author has a sequel planned?

Josie Barton

The wild and windswept Cornish coast with its rich history of shipwrecks comes alive in this story of village secrets and ancient superstition.

Like all the villagers in the remote Cornish village of Porthmorvoren whenever there is a ship wreck, Mary Blight heads to the beach to see what she can salvage, sometimes it’s a trinket or two, or occasionally, something more serviceable like a pair of wearable boots. When she discovers a distressed man in the sea, Mary risks everything to rescue him and nurses him back to health, but the villagers soon start to gossip about Mary’s motives for helping this stranger. The rescued man is Gideon Stone, an evangelical Methodist minister, who, on regaining his strength, sets out to bring salvation to this remote village which is blighted by religious fervour and age old superstitions.

Wrecker is something of a slow burner of a story which I think is quite deliberate as it allows the place and its people to feature in a very realistic sort of way. The harsh realities of eking out a meagre existence in this unforgiving landscape are well described, as is the way that petty differences and scurrilous gossip are allowed to wreck and ruin lives. With a strong sense of time and place Wrecker comes beautifully to life, bringing together a strong story which is filled with a sense of destiny and which captures perfectly the spirit of this harsh and unforgiving time.

Kerry Bridges

A novel of a Cornish wrecking village which promises much but spectacularly fails to deliver.

Mary Blight is a Wrecker; a scavenger who picks over the detritus washed up onto her Cornish beach. When she rescues a half dead man strapped to a barrel and it turns out to be the local minister, Mary strikes up a friendship with him and thinks her troubles are over. Nothing could be further from the truth.

This is a generally unpleasant story all round. Mary Blight is a really unlikeable character with no redeeming features, as are all her neighbours. The setting is supposed to be dark and evocative but is actually just negative and miserable and, as for the story, there just really isn't any.

If there is one redeeming feature, it is that the hardback cover is beautifully drawn and promised much which is not delivered. I found this novel really hard going and I am afraid it is not one that I would recommend.

Book Information

ISBN: 9780008274511
Publication date: 12th July 2018
Author: Noel O'Reilly
Publisher: HQ an imprint of HarperCollins Publishers
Format: Hardback
Genres: Reader Reviewed Books, Debuts of the Month, Debuts, eBook Favourites, Historical Fiction,