Past the Shallows - Favell Parrett

Past the Shallows - Favel Parrett

The term "Wintonesque" was woven more than once through the reviews at the front of this first published novel by Aussie female writer Favel Parrett. It's not just the parallels in writing style and content - the surf, the beautiful, redemptive surf - but it's also in the narrator's eye. There's a kindly benevolence in both writers, a certain compassion.


There's a childlikeness about compassion. But in an age of stiff egos and parasitic capitalism anything childlike can easily be mistaken for weakness and taken advantage of. But compassion is like the sway in the bridge - its weakness is its strength.


Contrast that with the small turning circle that is the emotional life of the boys' father. He is one of those people who is there even when he's not, permeating the air with the threat of the violence that's borne out of desperation, betrayal and lack of vision. Joe, the oldest son, is almost gone from this isolated part of southern Tasmania, in the boat it's taken him years to build. Joe is going before he gets stuck here forever.


Miles, the middle son, is only 13 but he can feel himself getting stuck here already. Being forced to go out on the boat to keep an eye out while his Dad fishes for illegal abalone, Miles is alternately solidifying into the earth like concrete, and drowning in the sea. Except for when he's surfing. That's the only time he feels free.


"He sat back behind the break, looked back towards the beach. Joe was only just coming down the track, but he was strong. He paddled quick and he'd be out in no time. Miles turned his head to the horizon and grinned. A good-sized line, maybe a four-footer, hit the reef and began to peel. Sometimes you didn't have to move an inch. The shoulder of the wave lifted his board; he looked down the clean face and took the drop. Miles felt his bones. He carved along the wave nice and loose, flicked up with sharp cutbacks every so often to bring him back up onto the shoulder. He heard Joe hooting from the beach and he knew he was charging."


The sea flows right through this book - its dangers and its depths, about those who are sucked under and who suck others under in turn, and about the beauty you feel when you know how to ride the waves.


The heart of this story though is Harry. Seven year old Harry. But you'll find that out for yourself.