Book review: When the Night Comes – Anna Spargo-Ryan

Book review: When the Night Comes

Book review: When the Night Comes

Favel Parrett’s first book, Past the Shallows, remains one of the most starkly beautiful pieces of fiction I’ve ever read. So it was with (let’s face it) an invasive level of enthusiasm that I went after her second book. And then read it in three hours, sitting by the side of a public pool and ignoring my children, adorable though they are.

For a little while, I thought When the Night Comes to be a vastly different book from Shallows (I call it that because it lives inside my body and we are on quite familiar terms). It is set in Tasmania, Denmark and Antarctica in the 80s, where the latter is extremely localised. It has a romance element, where the other doesn’t, and it is told from two perspectives.

But the Nella Dan — a real ship — becomes a character all of her own, teeming with insight into the men she took to the far ends of the earth. And then, ashore, the reality of life and love and absence. The central character of Isla offers a child’s perspective of what is a very adult relationship, and, as with Past the Shallows, Parrett uses children to comment on a loss of innocence. The similarities between the two works are revealed, and so too the beauty of their overlap and their distinctness.

My mistake was probably trying to read When the Night Comes in the context of Parrett’s first book. It was only once I’d decided to appreciate it as its own story that I realised how much the two do have in common: stillness, starkness, honesty. Once again she has developed a rich landscape, this time across multiple continents, and allowed it to breathe the same air as everyone else. It is a portrait of suburbia, with complete and well-drawn characters and a compelling tale, in the spirit of a Tim Winton short or an ABC original dramedy. Parrett has a real talent for finding new ways to express the everyday, and the intricacies that contribute to it.

There are a few threads of story here that I felt were unrealised, but on the whole, When the Night Comes is a true flicker of the ordinary extraordinariness of life.

  • Brona

    May 27, 2014 at 9:36 pm Reply

    I can’t wait to get my hands on this one too!

    Thanks for amping up my anticipation levels :-)

  • Julie

    May 28, 2014 at 10:11 pm Reply

    Thanks for the insight, can’t wait to read it. I’ve been looking forward to it, and it sounds as though it might be as beautiful as the first!

  • Merrewyn

    June 25, 2014 at 10:10 pm Reply

    So funny, Anna! I just finished reading this for work and was looking up reviews and there you were! What a lovely review- you’re still such a smart cookie. I look forward to hearing more of your insightful commentary in the future and seeing photos of your dog x

    • Anna Spargo-Ryan

      June 29, 2014 at 11:11 am Reply

      haha! Well, I am a bit of a Favel Parrett stalker, so that makes sense. Thanks for swinging by.

  • Bev

    June 29, 2014 at 4:40 pm Reply

    I’ve just received an uncorrected proof of this book and I’m really looking forward to reading it.
    It’s now next on my list I think!
    I just loved Past the Shallows – one of my favourite books of all time.

    One thing I do have an issue with is that she is being compared a lot to Tim Winton.
    Now, as wonderful as his writing is, and as high praise as that comparison is, I hope reviewers will allow her to get to out from that comparison, and stand on her own merits.

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