Toni Whitmont Review: Past the Shallows by Favel Parrett

by |July 1, 2011

I have read this remarkable novel, Past the Shallows, not once, but twice. I have wept through it not once, but twice. I have laughed in places, sighed a lot and disappeared so completely into the world that she conjures up that I had to wrench myself back into real time with an ache in my heart.

Parrett brings us the story of Miles and Harry, two of three brothers whose lives are shut down when their mother dies and they are left to fend for themselves with an angry father whose life revolves around his abalone poaching in the cold waters off the Tasmanian coast and his nursing of a bitter secret which is only numbed by large quantities of booze.

As a début novel, this really is quite remarkable. Parrett writes with elegance and simplicity. This is the kind of book that begs to be read out loud so you can savour each sparse sentence. Whether she is describing the economy of movement of Martin sorting through tubs of abalone, or Harry trying to mend Miles’ blistered hands with a comforting cup of Milo, or the warmth emitting from George’s dog Jake as he sleeps on Harry’s feet, the reader is utterly transported to the cold, bleak township clinging to Tasmania’s rocky coast.

Parrett is already being likened to Tim Winton and Craig Silvey and the comparisons are apt. But she has an assurance and authenticity uniquely her own and when it comes to Tasmania, she is certainly up there with Richard Flanagan when it comes to voicing country.

Past the Shallows is not a long read but it is completely engaging. It will leave you both broken-hearted and enormously grateful.

Toni Whitmont is the Editor-in-Chief of the Booktopia BUZZ

The ABC’s First Tuesday Book Club will be doing Past the Shallows in August

Publisher’ synopsis:

Past the Shallows

Hauntingly beautiful and told with an elegant simplicity, this is the story of two brothers growing up in a fractured family on the wild Tasmanian coast. The consequences of their parents’ choices shape their lives and ultimately bring tragedy to them all

Harry and Miles live with their father, an abalone fisherman, on the south-east coast of Tasmania. With their mum dead, they are left to look after themselves. When Miles isn’t helping out on the boat they explore the coast and Miles and his older brother, Joe, love to surf. Harry is afraid of the water.

Everyday their dad battles the unpredictable ocean to make a living. He is a hard man, a bitter drinker who harbours a devastating secret that is destroying him. Unlike Joe, Harry and Miles are too young to leave home and so are forced to live under the dark cloud of their father’s mood, trying to stay as invisible as possible whenever he is home. Harry, the youngest, is the most vulnerable and it seems he bears the brunt of his father’s anger.

About The Author

Favel Parrett is a Victorian writer who loves to surf in the Southern Ocean. In 2009 she was awarded a Mentorship from the Australian Society of Authors for this novel.

You can read Favel’s answers to our Ten Terrifying Questions here

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