- Paperback: 528 pages
- Publisher: 4th Estate - AU (18 March 2019)
- ISBN-10: 1460757769
- ISBN-13: 978-1460757765
- Product Dimensions: 12.9 x 3.2 x 19.7 cm
- Boxed-product Weight: 299 g
- Customer Reviews:
- Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 47 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
Boy Swallows Universe Paperback – 18 Mar 2019
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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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It's the coming of age tale of Eli, growing up in Brisbane's western suburbs, raised by drug dealers. We follow Eli and his brother August, through all the bad things life could throw at them, yet there are a lot of positives in their lives too. Living in Brisbane I'm familiar with many of the locations in this book, and knowing that it is semi-autobiographical, it really comes to life.
This book will make you laugh, it will make you cry. It is simply magnificent. Thankyou Trent Dalton!
Set in the suburbs of Brisbane in 1985, Eli Bell is struggling to grow up in the midst of a very complicated life. His mum is a junkie, his step-father is a heroin dealer, his brother is mute, his absent dad is an alcoholic, his best friend is a notorious criminal, and his pen pal is the ex sergeant at arms of the Rebels motorcycle club.
All of a sudden, tragedy strikes, and Eli’s life becomes a lot more complicated. He needs all the help he can get from his brother, his friends, his father who has suddenly landed in his life, and an attractive young (but still far too old for Eli) journalist called Caitlin Spies.
Boy Swallows Universe is a heartbreaking, but triumphant, Australian novel that reveals the true horrors lurking underneath the surface of most suburbs, I suspect. I’m still reeling from the wild ride of the last few chapters and Dalton shines through as a simply brilliant storyteller. If you are in the middle of reading this book and are perhaps thinking that there is a bit too much description and it jumps around a bit too much, just wait til the end where all will be revealed.
Trent, I don't know where you've been or what you've seen to have this story in you, but lucky for me you had. Can't wait to see what's next.
Simply unforgettably brilliant.
Top international reviews
Whilst this memoir-cum-novel from Australian journalist Trent Dalton definitely has its good points, I feel it might have been oversold by enthusiastic fans and puff merchants. I had been promised an immersive experience but it took me well over a hundred pages to follow just what was going on and to become invested in the characters. I did get there eventually and it does become an absorbing read.
Set in mid-80s Brisbane and recounted by 13-year old narrator Eli Bell, this semi-autobiographical debut tells the story of a lost father, a mute and much-loved older brother August who writes notes in the air, a heroin dealer for a stepfather, a worshipped mother in jail and Eli's babysitter the notorious criminal and legendary escape artist Slim Halliday. Much of it is harrowing but there are genuine moments of pathos and even humour. The ending is grisly but gripping.
The writing is outstanding and one can certainly detect the author’s journalistic background: shorn of frilly adjectives and devoid of adverbs, there’s a cleanness to the prose that I really relished. Dalton might let you know the colour, or the size or the shape of something but the most descriptive he gets in almost five hundred pages is to tell us that a small bird has ‘peppercorn eyes'.
The writing control is total even if the whole thing could have been usefully pruned by, oh, a third. So a kind of overwrought but in many respects underplayed account of Trent Dalton’s bizarre early life. Recommended with reservations. 3.5*
We follow 12-year-old Eli Bell who lives with his mum, stepdad and brother in Brisbane in the 1980’s. We start with Eli’s childhood seeming relatively normal but we soon learn that his brother Gus is an elective mute, his parents are drug dealers and his babysitter is a convicted criminal who escaped from jail several times. Eli’s world changes when his stepdad is caught by his boss dealing drugs on the side and is dragged off by henchmen whilst they are enjoying a family dinner. Following that, Eli’s mum is sent to jail and Eli and Gus are sent to live with his depressed and drunken father. Eli wants to grow up as a good person and a journalist and we follow him as he navigates his life in between the criminal world he was raised in and the world in which he wants to live.
This is the first Trent Dalton book I have read and, overall, I enjoyed it. The characters were well defined and I liked them immediately which helped me get invested in the story. Although this isn’t based on a true story, the characters are based on people that Dalton knows, so I think this helps bring them to life. The writing style is easy to follow and flows well but the pace of the book got a little bit slow for me. I think it started and finished well but it lost its way somewhere in the middle.
This is a nice coming of age story with memorable characters that I found myself rooting for.
Although this was not as good as ‘A Little Life’ for me, it was a solid story with an emotional flow and I will search out more Trent Dalton books.
I have to admit I felt a tight and aching knot in my stomach as I read the first half of the book. It was filled with too much violence, pain and anger. These pages reminded me of the people I knew long ago in Australia who took pride in the fact they were bullies and others who were constantly chasing the dragon as they endured a life totally dependent on drug addiction. But this knot slowly unravelled as the pieces of the love puzzle so beautifully fell into place for Eli and Caitlyn. This is definitely a must-read story and I'm looking forward to reading more books by this talented Aussie author in the future.
The main character was written with love, and the love he had for his brother as they navigated their early childhood years. Sinister in places, and it kept you guessing until the very end.
I would highly recommend the book. So beautifully written.
The writer really knew his subject and his writing was magnificent in a way that writing hardly ever is these days. I would nominate this book for any book prize with confidence. I loved it from start to finish.