Unusual story of high seas
WHEN THE NIGHT COMES
By Favel Parrett ( Hachette Australia 2013, $ 27.95)
WHY do people develop unusual personal attachments to boats or ships that they own or have connections with?
Some answers to this question are to be found within the substance of this unusual story.
The love of boats is particularly prevalent in Tasmania, where there are more registered owners per capita than any other state or territory in Australia.
The deeply emotional recollections shared in this story provide insights into the sensitivities that shape these relationships and aspirations.
A shared bond with the tenacious little Antarctic supply ship, the Nella Dan, creates the central presence in this story.
Although fictionalised, the gentle power of the narrative carries the conviction of strongly embedded personal experiences.
The Nella Dan is an icon in the annals of Tasmanian shipping.
It is a pity it lies deep in 3000 fathoms of wild waters off remote Macquarie Island.
Launched in 1961 in Denmark and based in Hobart, for more than a quarter of a century it provided a reliable and brave lifeline for scientists and expeditioners at the Australian base at Casey in Antarctica.
At just over 200ft long it was small for an icebreaker. Its vivid red and an unusually high flared bow made a defiant statement to the elements it confronted and to those who admired, even loved, her.
The story is constructed, in part, in a diary format. The language is plain, personal and simple. The entries are brief, emotional and honest.
The contributors are Isla, a schoolgirl and the youngest in a broken migrant family now living with her mother and brother in West Hobart.
Bo is a cook who joined the Nella Dan as a late teenager on its maiden voyage.
In Hobart, Bo rents a room with the family during the ship’s layovers. He brings qualities of compassion and practical usefulness and makes comforting links with the family’s shared homeland. Thus the bonds develop. Bo’s account of the hellish voyages in the wildest waters imaginable are riveting.
He endures the torture with the ship and shares its fight for survival.
The bond between ship and man is forged in the thin layer of steel that surrounds and protects them. The tragic scuttling of the ship is like a death in the family.
A large gathering of mourners gathered with flowers and flags at the pier in Hobart as the surviving captain is brought home by the rescue tug.
This is Tasmanian author Favel Parrett’s second novel. Her first, Past The Shallows, earnt her a Miles Franklin short- listing in 2011 and the distinction of being identified as the best Newcomer of the Year by the Australian Book Industry.
This book has the same poetic cadences and a simple sophistication of expression that makes it eminently readable.
This is an evocative story elegantly told that will have special appeal to those who are seafarers, real or imaginary.