Favel Parrett’s PAST THE SHALLOWS
I am not a parochial reader. I do not go out of my way to read an Australian book but when I do read a brilliant Australian novel that fact that it is Australian does make the book more special. Last year I only read one Australian novel (and absolutely loved it) and I should have read more but for one reason or another nothing seemed to make it into my ‘to read’ pile. Maybe this year will be different, either way it is certainly off to a great start after reading this amazing debut novel.
The book is set in Tasmania in the 1980s and to describe it as dark and broody would be a huge understatement (P.S. I LOVE dark and broody). It is the story of three brothers; Joe, Miles and Harry. Their mother was killed in a car accident when they were younger and their belligerent father takes his hard life out on his kids.
The story is told from the point of view of Miles and Harry (I would have loved to have had Joe’s point of view too). Harry is the youngest and his perspective is full of innocence and naivety to his and his brothers’ situation making it more gut wrenching and heart breaking. Joe, the oldest, has moved out of the family home and this has meant Miles has been drafted into to help his father aboard his fishing boat. Miles is neither suited nor ready for this life but is forced to do it none the less. The three brothers all try in one way or another to help the other get through their situations but when Joe leaves town everything becomes untethered.
The combination of brotherly love and a father full of self-loathing and hatred leaves you emotionally crippled by the end of the novel. Comparing the book to Tim Winton would be an unfair burden to heap on any writer let alone a debut novelist but any fan of Winton’s work will definitely love this book. I was reminded a lot of Craig Silvey’s JASPER JONES but don’t expect the same laconic humour to defuse the bleakness or intensity. Favel deftly captures the harshness and beauty of life at the edge of Australia and her writing will stay with you long after you put the book down.
Check out my video review here