Wow! I can’t write a review of this novel in my usual way so this is more of a ‘reflection’. That’s because of the emotions this story stirred. As a reader, I was completely captivated. And heartbroken. I forgot I was a writer. I only wish I could write a book like this …
My copy of this is unmarked. I didn’t write a note as I read. Not a skerrick on the page. I was so captivated by the story that I didn’t come out from under its spell. Towards the end I was reading so fast, I scarcely saw the words. I wanted to keep reading, but at the same time I could barely continue as my heart was breaking. Yet it was beautiful.
In brief, it is the story of two young brothers, Harry and Miles, both of whom stirred every maternal bone in my body. Their mother is dead and they are at the mercy of their alcoholic, abalone diver father and his off-sider.
The book is set on the remote south coast of Tasmania, an area I don’t know well but have visited. Places like Dover, Bruny Island, Cloudy Bay, as well as that most distant of all islands, Maatsuyker, are well-known to Tasmanians.
This book is set in modern times, but has an old world feel to it, a sense that time has forgotten to bring these people with it.
The story is told plainly, in the voices of Harry and Miles, children’s voices, so it’s simply written, with mentions of Milo, peanut butter, and butter menthols. There’s no multisyllabic words or purple prose, just plain, yet exquisite, writing.
All is not bleak — there is tenderness on almost every page, especially between the brothers. And there are a few good people in their lives, like the reclusive George and his dog, and the boys’ grandfather.
If you want to become caught up in a story that is agonising to read, but at the same time you can’t put it down, read this. If you’re looking for a book where you become invested in the characters and want to take them home with you and look after them, read this. If you want to be moved to tears, read this.
‘Out past the shallows, past the sandy-bottomed bays, comes the dark water — black and cold and roaring. Rolling out an invisible path …’
‘Past the Shallows‘ by Favel Parrett, Hachette, 2011 $26.99
I’m currently reading ‘The Light Between Oceans’, by M L Stedman and when I finish that, I have a proof copy of the yet-to-be-released novel by Moira McKinnon, ‘Cicada’, which I’m looking forward to sinking my teeth into! Stay tuned …