Combined Reviews: Past the Shallows by Favell Parrett

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past_the_shallows.jpg    Past the Shallows
Favell Parrett

[This novel has been shortlisted for the 2012 Miles Franklin Award.]

From the publisher's page:
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.


Juliette Hughes in "The Brisbane Times": "It's always a good sign when you are looking forward to getting home to read the next chapter in a novel. Past the Shallows, Favel Parrett's first novel, opens lyrically: 'Out past the shallows, past the sandy-bottomed bays, comes the dark water - black and cold and roaring.' As opening sentences go, it's a damn good one, plunging us straight into place. Then Parrett gets down to business, telling the story in a way that is sometimes linear, sometimes impressionistic, yet always clear...This is an impressive debut. Parrett's writing has a real voice, with power to evoke feeling, place and character. She is capable of refreshing narrative clarity, yet at other times surprises with an intense lyricism that is never self-indulgent. Everyone is put to the test - pushed to the edge physically and spiritually in a series of events and revelations that affect not only the characters but also the reader. This book is that rare thing, a finely crafted literary novel that is genuinely moving and full of heart."

Louise Swinn in "The Australian": "It is not hard to see why Favel Parrett was awarded a mentorship by the Australian Society of Authors while writing Past the Shallows, for this is an unequivocally strong debut novel...Past the Shallows is recognisable in many ways, from structure to character types and atmosphere. Set on the coast in an outdoor landscape that is familiar, where phones and computers aren't much part of life, it is in many ways a timeless place. It is a story existing almost as far from the contemporary world as it's possible to write, traditional as it is in plot and setting...And, interestingly, this novel by a woman about a family of men, pitching to a female-dominated fiction readership, is almost devoid of female characters...Parrett has the confidence and ability to leave out some of the story so that the tale's full heft is a gradual revelation. Her skill at weaving the plot combined with her understanding of the nuances of the internal workings of her characters means there is some grey where, in lesser hands, it might easily have just been black and white. That there can exist in the reader a shred of pity for the father at the conclusion of the novel is testament to Parrett's good judgment as a storyteller."

Rachel Edwards on ABC Radio National's "Book Show": "Tasmanian fiction has almost become a genre in its own right. It is considered synonymous with the gothic, it features both extreme weather and an extreme natural environment and utilises the physical isolation of the characters as a device for the author to intensify the story. Cate Kennedy' marvellous The World Beneath and most of Richard Flanagan's books tick these boxes and so does Past the Shallows. And it does so successfully...Past the Shallows has a distinct voice, is a carefully crafted story with well formed characters. I loved it to pieces and would counsel the reader not to finish it while in a public place."

Lisa Hill on the "ANZ LitLovers" weblog: "Favel Parrett is one of a new generation of Australian writers, and she has made an impressive debut with her first novel, Past the Shallows. It is raw, tough and uncompromising, and hard to put down: I read it in a single sitting...It is a melancholy novel, but as Robert Drewe says on the cover blurb, it seems real and true, and it 'sweeps you away in its tide'."

Estelle Tang on "3000 Books": "Thanks to Favel Parrett for making me actually start weeping uncontrollably on public transport."


Linda Morris in "The Sydney Morning Herald".

"Booktopia" weblog


The publisher's reading group notes.

The author introducing her novel on YouTube:

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This page contains a single entry by Perry Middlemiss published on May 10, 2012 9:04 PM.

Review: The Wonder of Seldom Seen by J. D. Gregan was the previous entry in this blog.

Elizabeth Harrower Interview is the next entry in this blog.

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