All Our Shimmering Skies Hardcover – 28 September 2020
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- ISBN-10 : 1460759826
- ISBN-13 : 978-1460759820
- Hardcover : 448 pages
- Dimensions : 16.6 x 3.6 x 24.4 cm
- Publisher : HarperCollins - AU (28 September 2020)
- Best Sellers Rank: 6,726 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
- Customer Reviews:
About the Author
Trent Dalton is a staff writer for the Weekend Australian Magazine and a former assistant editor of The Courier Mail. He's a two-time winner of a Walkley Award for Excellence in Journalism, a four-time winner of a Kennedy Award for Excellence in NSW Journalism and a four-time winner of the national News Awards Features Journalist of the Year. His debut novel, Boy Swallows Universe, published by HarperCollins in 2018, is a much-loved national bestseller and critically acclaimed, winning the 2019 Indie Book of the Year Award, the MUD Literary Prize, the UTS Glenda Adams Award for New Writing and the People's Choice Award at the 2019 NSW Premier's Literary Awards. In addition, at the 2019 Australian Book Industry Awards, the book won a record four ABIA Awards, including the prestigious Book of the Year Award. Boy Swallows Universe has been published across thirty-four English language and translation territories.
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Then comes the WWII bombing of Darwin by Japan which is described in so vividly you feel as though you’re there, being terrified. Molly takes off on a quest with the golden-haired Greta, actress and singer extraordinaire, who is also the abused girlfriend her Uncle Aubrey. Molly is guided by the cryptic lines scored on the base of a copper gold panning dish by her grandfather, a man said to be cursed for his gold greed by an old Aboriginal man known as Longcoat Bob. She fears her heart is turning to stone and wants Bob to remove the curse. Their journey through the spectacular deep country is splendid and terrifying. They have an unlikely ally - a downed Japanese pilot who proves to be a man of courage, grace and sadness. He saves them more than once and in their way, they save him too. The most unsettling episode is when they come across a deranged Dutch couple, botanists studying the properties of native plants, who have become addicted to opium, along with the dying old folk of many nationalities who are being eased into painless death in the river of Lethe. They escape, but there’s worse news: Aubrey is tracking them. He thinks Molly can lead him to gold.
And so the novel drives to a scary denouement. It works on one level like an action movie, and on others as deep tempering of the soul, all of which Trent Dalton describes with exceptional, vivid prose that makes you sit back in admiration. This will surely cement his reputation as a fine author. It will also help us to understand the depth and complexity of Aboriginal knowledge and possibly go some way towards healing the hearts of people who after WWII could not think kindly of the Japanese. It’s an exceptional novel - an instant classic, as they say.
But Dalton’s second novel lacks its authenticity. BSU was gritty and raw and the mysticism perfectly balanced the earthiness. Maybe its autobiographical aspects were more vital than I realised.
Because his second novel underplays the relatable and ramps up the mystical, and you can see him trying on every page. After a while his affectatious references to the gravedigger girl, and the silver screen lady and the pilot who fell from the sky, and the elliptical conversations with the sky, and the run molly run, and the ludicrousness of 13yo uneducated Molly’s precocious knowledge of Walt Whitman and bush survival tips, and Yukio’s lack of English but word-perfect recall of Shakespearean dialogue, and the simplistic “hate” that served as explanation for all the bad guys’ behaviour, was all too much.
Add in Longcoat Bob, a bunch of inhuman lepers, a baby who falls from the sky, in fact all the “sky gifts”, a cave mouth shaped like a vagina for comic relief, and rambling unedited mythologising, and I thought Dalton was trying way too hard, even fearfully, to up the trajectory from his first hugely entertaining and truthful book.
Unfortunately also, the liberal too-clever splashes of “if you don’t master your fear, your fear will master you” “are you carrying the load or is the load carrying you?” eventually diluted down to formulaic pretentiousness.
Dammit, I was so looking forward to it as well. Maybe that was Dalton’s problem.
As a bonus, the landscape and people of the Top End, which Dalton describes with amazing clarity, will have us booking our tickets to experience first hand the wonders of Darwin and its surrounds.
This is a quintessential Australian novel destined to be a classic.