There Was Still Love (Favel Parrett, Hachette)
Favel Parrett’s third novel, There Was Still Love, is a meticulously observed and masterfully crafted immigrant story about a displaced Czech family. The novel oscillates in nearly every way—between the viewpoints of separated cousins Luděk and Malá Liška, between Prague and Melbourne, and between different timelines spanning from the 1930s to the 1990s—but this fragmented storytelling style never detracts from the deeply human story at its heart. Parrett’s prose is gentle and tender yet unflinching about the effects of intergenerational trauma and war; so much is conveyed in so few words. She expertly inhabits the excitable and curious voice of Luděk to convey his sense of loss for an irretrievable past, the pain of separation and the scarcity of resources characterising Prague in the 1980s, while Malá Liška’s devotion to her grandparents doesn’t shield her from their trauma, the indignity of old age and the erasure of their identity in their loss of language and the Anglicisation of their names. Grandparents loom large in There Was Still Love; the middle generation is strikingly absent. This book calls to mind Sofie Laguna’s adult fiction told from the perspective of child narrators and recent European immigrant stories like Sofija Stefanovic’s Miss Ex-Yugoslavia.
Sonia Nair is a Melbourne-based writer and critic