There Was Still Love by Favel Parrett
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.