Summary and book reviews of Past the Shallows by Favel Parrett

Past the Shallows

by Favel Parrett

Past the Shallows
  • Critics' Opinion:

    Readers' Opinion:

     Not Yet Rated
  • Paperback:
    Apr 2014, 272 pages

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Book Reviewed by:
Sarah Tomp

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About this Book

Book Summary

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.

Joe, Miles, and Harry are growing up on the remote southern coast of Tasmania - a stark, untamed landscape swathed by crystal blue waters. The rhythm of their days is dictated by the natural world, and by their father's moods. Like the ocean he battles daily to make a living as a fisherman, he is wild and volatile - a hard drinker warped by a devastating secret. Unlike Joe, Harry and Miles are too young to move out, and so they attempt to stay as invisible as possible whenever their father is home. Miles tries his best to watch out for Harry, but he can't be there all the time. Often alone, Harry finds joy in the small treasures he discovers by the edge of the sea - shark eggs, cuttlefish bones, and the friendship of a mysterious neighbor. But sometimes small treasures, or a brother's love, simply are not enough…

Chapter One

Harry stood on the sand and looked down the wide, curved beach of Cloudy Bay. Everything was clean and golden and crisp, the sky almost violet with the winter light, and he wished that he wasn't afraid. They were leaving him again, his brothers, Miles already half in his wet suit and Joe standing tall, eyes lost to the water.

Water that was always there. Always everywhere. The sound and the smell and the cold waves making Harry different. And it wasn't just because he was the youngest. He knew the way he felt about the ocean would never leave him now. It would be there always, right inside him.

That was just how it was.

"What should I find?" he asked.

Joe shook his dry wet suit out hard. "Um . . . A cuttlefish bone, a nice bit of driftwood . . ."

"A shark egg," Miles said.

And there was silence.

Harry waited for Miles to say he was joking, waited for him to say something, but he didn't. He just kept waxing his board.

So Harry stood up and...

Please be aware that this discussion guide may contain spoilers!
  1. Aunty Jean is the only female role model the boys have left. She is at times cruel and caring towards them. Do you consider her a good person? Do you have any sympathy for her? What references within the text have led you to this opinion?

  2. Do you think George Fuller sees Harry as just another puppy to rescue? Or does he genuinely care for Harry? There are a few other works of literature that use an ostracised figure in the community to enhance our understanding of the main characters. Why do you think this can be is a useful plot device, and do you think it's effective here?

  3. This is a small community where everyone knows who everyone is as we can see from Mr Roberts, George and Mrs Martin in the store. In light of this...
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Reviews

BookBrowse Review

BookBrowse

And like the ocean, the story too, with its melancholy tone, holds more than is first seen. It seems as though each scene is both worrisome and soothing. The high moments are laced with a bit of a worry. Wonder is quick to follow danger and threat. From the start, I knew we were on unsteady ground. Something ominous looms in the background against the stark yet beautiful landscape made clear with just the right details. And yet, I was surprised by the harsh intensity of the climactic scenes. The ending was shocking, yet felt unfortunately inevitable too.   (Reviewed by Sarah Tomp).

Full Review Members Only (830 words).

Media Reviews

Kirkus Reviews

Parrett's writing is exquisite in its simplicity and eloquence, and her narrative is heart-rending. This poignant story resonates.

Library Journal

Starred Review. Parrett deservedly received critical claim in Australia for this haunting fiction debut. Her writing is vivid and distinct...Parrett's novel sings with an emotional power that marks her as a writer to watch.

Publishers Weekly

Starred Review. Parrett's remarkable debut examines the bleak life of a broken family in Tasmania, in spare, unflinching prose.

The Sunday Times (UK)

If you read only one book this year, make sure it's this.

The Age (Australia)

A finely crafted literary novel that is genuinely moving and full of heart.

The Canberra Times (Australia)

Parrett's debut marks the addition of a strong voice to the chorus of Australian literature.

Sunday Tasmanian (Australia)

A work by a new master...Parrett's debut is an uncompromising and memorable tale.

Author Blurb Robert Drewe author of The Shark Net
So real, so true - this novel sweeps you away in its tide.

Author Blurb Christina Schwarz #1 New York Times bestselling author of Drowning Ruth
Vibrant and intensely moving, this story about three boys in thrall to their angry father sucked me instantly into its emotional currents. Favel Parrett has created a novel as lovely, mysterious, powerful and entrancing as the capricious ocean around which her characters’ lives revolve.

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Beyond the Book

Abalone Fishing

The abalone's iridescent inside shell In Past the Shallows, the boys' father is an abalone fisherman off the southern Tasmanian coast. Abalone are gastropods—single-shelled molluscs—similar to snails, but with a more flattened shell. Other than their size and respiratory pores—large holes near the edge—their outer shell is often unremarkable. However, their inner iridescent appearance is prized by collectors and used for mother-of-pearl jewelry. Primarily, abalone are hunted and sold as a culinary delicacy. Although abalone farms also provide demanding consumers with these tasty molluscs, wild abalone are more highly valued. In Australia, the largest abalone producing country in the world, there are two types: blacklip and the more valuable greenlip. ...

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