Great books are one of the best things, full stop, no returns.
I hope this is one of many posts this year about books that brighten up my life. This one certainly did.
I had the opportunity to revisit this wonderful book for a review I wanted to write.
Below, my thoughts. Do yourself a favour and read this book. It is truly wonderful.
This mesmerising debut tells the story three brothers trapped on the margins of society. The story is told from the perspective of the two youngest brothers, Miles and Harry, as they seek escape from the abuses of their father, an embittered abalone fisherman.
The wild and inhospitable landscape of southernmost Tasmania provides a beautiful, ominous tension throughout, with the sea and dark weather front and centre. Right from the start, the book’s lyricism is enough to take your breath away:
“Out past the shallows, past the sandy-bottomed bays,
comes the dark water – black and cold and roaring.”
Harry’s innocent voice tells of the ordinariness of neglect in his world, the whole while maintaining an optimism at once totally believable and profoundly touching.
Miles, older, but just as helpless is profoundly aware of what will happen if he does not escape the violence of his father and the fate that is life in this town. He speaks of the cannery:
“Most kids ended up working there. Miles knew them; kids from school
who left before the end of Year Nine. But they didn’t look like kids
any more. They were hard. Just big arm muscles and thick hands”
Past the Shallows completely immerses you as family secrets unravel and the boys’ lives are revealed with quiet urgency. This is the kind of book you read in one greedy sitting. And then read again. Compelling and beautiful.