Title: There Was Still Love
Author: Favel Parrett
Published: September 24th 2019
Publisher: Hachette Australia
Rating: 4.5 stars
The profoundly moving new novel from the critically acclaimed and Miles Franklin shortlisted author of PAST THE SHALLOWS and WHEN THE NIGHT COMES. A tender and masterfully told story of memory, family and love.
Prague, 1938: Eva flies down the street from her sister. Suddenly a man steps out, a man wearing a hat. Eva runs into him, hits the pavement hard. His hat is in the gutter. His anger slaps Eva, but his hate will change everything, as war forces so many lives into small, brown suitcases.
Prague, 1980: No one sees Ludek. A young boy can slip right under the heavy blanket that covers this city – the fear cannot touch him. Ludek is free. And he sees everything. The world can do what it likes. The world can go to hell for all he cares because Babi is waiting for him in the warm flat. His whole world.
Melbourne, 1980: Mala Li ka’s grandma holds her hand as they climb the stairs to their third floor flat. Inside, the smell of warm pipe tobacco and homemade cakes. Here, Mana and Bill have made a life for themselves and their granddaughter. A life imbued with the spirit of Prague and the loved ones left behind.
Favel Parrett’s deep emotional insight and stellar literary talent shine through in this love letter to the strong women who bind families together, despite dislocation and distance. It is a tender and beautifully told story of memory, family and love. Because there is still love. No matter what.
‘This novel is a work of fiction, but my grandparents were very real. They taught me about kindness and gave me all the time and love I needed. They are never far from my thoughts.’
Favel Parrett, Author’s Note, There Was Still Love
There Was Still Love is the third novel penned by Favel Parrett , a strong literary voice in Australia. Parrett’s latest piece of fiction is her most passionate endeavour yet, and it represents an ambitious piece of writing. There Was Still Love examines war, distance, familial relations, sacrifice, survival, displacement and hope. Defined by stark but thoughtful prose, There Was Still Love is a touching tribute to significance of grandparents.
Strong people, particularly women, define There Was Still Love. Favel Parrett’s latest novel is a story of the bonds of love and family. It also considers the pain of separation, distance and displacement. This emotional story crosses from Prague in the late 1930’s, through to Melbourne in the 1980’s. It opens up the wounds of war and change. It sees two sisters endure the pain of separation, the loss of a home and an altered life path. There Was Still Love is also the touching story of the power of grandparents and their pivotal role to providing warmth, care and semblance to lives of their beloved grandchildren. There Was Still Love concerns itself with memories – both good and bad. It is a story that considers the full worth of what it means to feel connected to a home.
I was recently able to connect with Favel Parrett during an author in conversation event in Perth, Western Australia. What struck me about this gentle, warm and eloquent soul, was the emotion surrounding this novel. Favel Parrett was determined to write this story about and for her grandparents, it was an inherent calling. While listening to her impassioned talk on her third novel, Parrett was visibly moved by her novel. I found Parrett’s passion admirable and infectious. I couldn’t wait to delve into this title as soon as I returned home from the author event.
I did have to put the breaks on while I read There Was Still Love. This is a novel to be savoured, rather than consumed in one big gulp. The writing style is toned back, almost sparse, but it is also carefully plucked to perfection. I know that the author drafted There Was Still Love at least twenty times over before she was happy with the final result. In crafting her latest novel, Parrett locked herself away from the world and its distractions, devoting her whole self to this book. In her author event, Parrett revealed that she lost friends while writing this book, such was her determination to get this tribute to the lives of her grandparents just right.
There Was Still Love is a work of fiction, that is inspired by the lives of Parrett’s own grandparents and family circle. She consulted with her cousin Martin a great deal to inform this novel, but Parrett purposefully skipped the middle generation and their absence is felt in the novel too. Through this novel, I gained an insightful and full picture of Prague from a non-tourist set of eyes. I appreciated learning about the culture, customs, cuisine, locations, language and the daily lives of the Czech people. Parrett includes references to the history of this locale and key events. Even in the Melbourne flat inhabited by the grandparents of this novel, Prague is a looming figure, with the city’s presence felt in all aspect their lives. I thought this was a strong and defining part of the novel.
Displacement is a theme that runs right through this novel and we bear witness to the pain of separation, as well as the effort that goes into rebuilding a new life in a foreign country. Prague is still very much in the hearts and minds of the characters in this story. We learn how they have had to adapt to function in Australian society, from their changed names, accents and behaviours. Parrett outlines the yearning for home and the people left behind. It is incredibly profound.
There Was Still Love is an ambitious title, it traverses time and place, it also shifts tenses and it embodies the truthful voices of two children, among others. The narrative springs up in the form of vignettes, fragments of the past and memories that are too overwhelming to ignore. When I reached the end of my journey with There Was Still Love, I was gently touched by this grand gesture to a beloved set of grandparents. I’m sure Favel Parrett’s own grandparents would be very proud of their granddaughter’s achievements with this book, in their own special way. I can just see Favel Parrett’s grandmother hiding away to avoid the phone at all costs, and her grandfather smoking his pipe, with their ‘Little Fox’ not too far from their thoughts.
There Was Still Love by Favel Parrett is published by Hachette Australia. Out now. $29.99
To learn more about the author of There Was Still Love, Favel Parrett, visit here.
*Thanks is extended to Hachette Australia for providing a free copy of this book for review purposes.
There Was Still Love is book #132 of the 2019 Australian Women Writers Challenge