There Was Still Love

Favel Parrett

There Was Still Love
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There Was Still Love

Favel Parrett

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.


With its pared back, elegant writing, Favel Parrett’s When The Night Comes is one of my favourite Australian novels. Her new book There Was Still Love examines loss, exile and compromise with the same restrained simplicity.

There Was Still Love relates the story of twin sisters separated at fifteen by the Nazi invasion of Czechoslovakia and then kept apart by the Cold War. It is the 1980s and they are each raising a grandchild, Liska in Melbourne and Ludek in Prague. Much of the story is told through the eyes of the children.

The loss of Liska’s parents is not explored, but it becomes clear that Ludek is being held hostage by the state to ensure his mother, an international theatre performer, doesn’t seek political asylum while on tour.

The story is based on the experiences of Parrett’s own grandparents’ exile in Melbourne. There is a lived intimacy to the prejudice Liska witnesses, as her grandmother negotiates life through the discomfort of a second language, and her grandfather is diminished by his work options. Meanwhile, in Prague, Ludek’s beloved Babi rails against yet another outside force dictating the pattern of their life.

But through all this, the bonds of family remain. As the title states, ‘there was still love’ in the homes the two women created for their grandchildren – a warm centre protecting them from the vagaries of the wider world.

In the current climate regarding asylum seekers, There Was Still Love is a gentle reminder that people don’t choose to flee their country of origin – the vast majority would rather stay home with their own language, culture and family and not be the subject of an immigration debate.

Susan Stevenson works as a bookseller at Readings Malvern.

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