She has a tendency to call dibs on my books, add them to her shelves/beside pile/endless stash of my previously loaned books, and I never see them again. I mean, I’ve made sure that I’m getting them in the will, so there’s that, but every now and then I think I’d like to see one or two of them again before her passing (especially since the women on her side are exceptionally long-lived).
Trent Dalton’s second novel, All Our Shimmering Skies, reads like a fable to me. This is perhaps because it’s primarily told from the perspective of a child, Molly Hook, who is on a journey to break her family’s curse. Having the story focus on Molly helps some of the more fabulous or coincidental aspects slip through unquestioned; through the eyes of a child, things are expected to be exaggerated or misunderstood.
Boy Swallows Universe, Dalton’s first novel, is also told from a child’s perspective, and is well worth a read, if you’ve never encountered it. Both novels are exceptionally vivid, both in the sense of place and the intensely experienced circumstances of the characters.
Vivid is the word that kept coming to me as I read AOSS – the landscape is so vibrant, Molly’s quest is so vital, even the colours Molly and her companion Greta wear match the sky and the landscape respectively. I knew as soon as I started reading this that I wanted to devour it in one sitting, but I spaced it out over three weekends, prolonging the joy as much as I could. Even spread out like that, I still feel somewhat dreamlike after immersing myself in Dalton’s Darwin and the wilds of the far end.
In terms of the plot, the basics: while the story treads the well-worn boards of a quest (the power was within you, all along!)(this is not a specific spoiler, I swear), I could not have predicted all of the windings of the path it took along the way, nor would I have wanted to. Some of the peripheral characters were not as well drawn as others, but that isn’t a nit I really want to pick; all adults are opaque, especially the scary ones, to children.
Overall, I really enjoyed this book. I was kind of delighted by it, in fact. I don’t often read Australian Fiction (which… is going to turn out to be a lie this year, as I’ve recently found four amazing Aussie authors I’ve been devouring), but Dalton has quickly become a favourite, and I wouldn’t hesitate to recommend both his books to everyone.