Favel Parrett’s 2014 novel, When the Night Comes blew me away. It’s not the sort of book I’d usually read. But I’d heard great things so thought, “Why not?”
Why not indeed?! It’s stayed with me ever since and I find it hard to describe what I loved so much about it. The story, the language, the beauty. It’s in my top 2-3 books OF ALL TIME.
As I’m a slacker I hadn’t gotten around to reading Parrett’s previous work, even though I’d heard equally wonderful things.
So when I noted that Hachette audio had released an audiobook of Parrett’s Past the Shallows, I leapt at the chance to listen.
Past the Shallows
by Favel Parrett
on May 1st 2011
Source: Hachette Australia
Genres: Literary Fiction
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.
I’m a newcomer to audiobooks and the very lengthy (16+hrs) The Hypnotist’s Love Story by Liane Moriarty was my first. I’m doing a lot of driving and travel for my job at the moment and have found that audiobooks help the time fly by. I’ve historically HATED driving. With a passion. But, seriously… I’m actually now enjoying my trips to rural communities required as part of my part-time job.
But enough of my blithery crap. What you need to know is… THIS BOOK IS AMAZING! I’m getting a ‘real’ copy as soon as I can go shopping. Because I need to read it. I need to SEE the words.
Parrett’s a magical writer. Her words and phrases are beautiful. They’re poetic. They’re simple. And they’re not wasted. She has the ability to wind specifics into her prose in a way that grounds them. Without a book here to refer to I can’t offer examples, but remember references to Freddo Frogs and the like – seamlessly thrown into sentences in a masterful way.
As a story teller she has an amazing knack of luring readers in with down-to-earth and loveable characters. Harry and Miles were both amazing boys. Beautifully written, their personalities were etched into my mind. I have to admit this is partly – undoubtedly – because of the narration.
David Wenham is a very talented actor (and quite well-known here in Australia. Best known internationally for his role in the Lord of the Rings’ movies.). He ‘did’ voices more than the previous narrator I’d listened to and he was freakin’ amazing. Harry’s voice in particular portrayed EVERYTHING it needed to about the vulnerable but innocently hopeful young boy. (You can listen to a 5min sample here via Audible.)
Her characters were very real and sometimes quite shocking. Parrett isn’t heavy-handed in prepping readers for what’s to come. I didn’t quite realise how revolting their father was until, well… stuff happens.
And their living situation became shockingly evident when someone knocked on the door and didn’t set foot inside but commented on the kids having to live in a ‘shit-hole’.
I’d been warned this book was sad and I was about an hour from the end when I suspected what was coming. I had a 2 ¼ hr drive each way to a work meeting so I decided I needed to leave it for the trip home as it would be bad form to arrive at a meeting with red eyes and a sobbing shattered heart.
And I did. Sob, that is. Unfortunately – or aptly – I drove through some really heavy rain on my trip home and I had to keep pausing the audio, because even with headphones on I struggled to hear and did not want to miss a thing. And I left the very end until I was home. So I could fully pay attention.
I wasn’t quite sure of the boys’ ages, other than knowing their older brother Joe was 19 and Miles and Harry four years apart. I might have just missed that point, but don’t think it mattered.
In my review of When the Night Comes, I mentioned that people come into our lives when we most need them (in terms of young Isla and her mother’s boyfriend Bo). In this novel it’s the hermit-like neighbour George who appears in Harry’s life. I did expect something else might come of his presence so was a little disappointed when that wasn’t the case. And of course, if he had been there when Harry most needed him… things could have been very different. For everyone.
In terms of the narration… Wenham was ah-mazing. Bloody fantastic. He ‘did’ a lot of voices, but in a very understated kind of way. His innocent and enthusiastic Harry was equally heartwarming and heartbreaking.
As for the audio recording… at under 5hrs it was a very manageable length, but the editing seemed a bit off. There were no real pauses between (what I assume to be) chapters. In fact some of the pauses between chapters were shorter than pauses between sentences. They ran into each other in a way that was occasionally confusing. And the sound varied from chapter to chapter – louder / softer. It didn’t ruin the experience for me as I was able to separate that from the book itself but it was a little disconcerting.
I think I actually loved this book more than When the Night Comes and it’s shot into my top couple of books of all time thanks to the characters’ voices, the beautiful writing and the achingly sad (yet hopeful) storyline.
Past the Shallows by Favel Parrett was published in Australia by Hachette Australia in 2011 but the audio book has been released this year.
I received a copy of this audiobook for review purposes.