Australian journalist, Trent Dalton, hit gold with his debut novel Boy Swallows Universe. Critics promptly declared the quirky novel about growing up in the suburbs of Brisbane the “ latest Australian classic”.
Big call, and although I enjoyed the read, I only connected with it after hearing that many aspects of this coming of age tale mirrored Dalton’s own life. The author did have a renowned Queensland criminal as a babysitter and his mother most certainly had an unconventional life.
I gained an appreciation for BSU after listening to Dalton at my local Library. He was open, funny-as and a delightful raconteur, chatting to the audience as if he was simply sharing stories over cold beer at a backyard barbie.
I’ve just finished Dalton’s follow up novel, “All Our Shimmering Skies”.
Molly Hook is a gravedigger’s daughter whose only friend is the shovel she uses in the Darwin cemetery. Life is harsh with her alcoholic father and uncle after her mother’s death. She survives the 1942 bombing by Japanese war planes though believes her family is cursed which goes back to previous generations who were gold prospectors. Molly undertakes a long and dangerous journey deep into untamed country to find Longcoat Bob, an Aboriginal Medicine Man. With her is Greta Maze escaping an abusive relationship with Molly’s uncle, who is following them menacingly. As they travel they are joined by Yukio, a Japanese pilot, who has parachuted from his crashing plane.
“There’s only people, Molly. There are good ones and there are bad ones and then there’s all of us nuts stuck in the middle.“
I loved this book and think it absolutely smashes BSU. It is storytelling full of whimsey and magic and includes the Dreamtime, history, intrigue, and maybe a few tears. I was even reminded in part of old cowboy movies. Bizarre, right ? This tale too is quirky and the critics might deem some parts “unbelievable”. Who cares?
I’m not one to “judge a book by its cover”. Indeed, with my penchant for preloved books many that I read are devoid of a cover, or in the very least are so damaged that they have their own story to tell. Shimmering Skies with its cover full of colour is just like Trent Dalton’s storytelling.
Loved it !