The highest praise I can give this novel is that at times I thought it was written by one of my very favourite authors, Tim Winton. Three Quarters of the way through this book I was ready to declare this my favourite read of the year. It has this great Winton feel to it. It has that great Aussie style of language and slang. It has characters to die for. Slim, feels like a Winton creation. The only gripe I have with the novel, and the only thing that stopped me from giving it five stars, is the incongruous, over the top ending, which had me checking the cover to make sure I was reading the same book. The ending is so out of place with the rest of the narrative. I truly wish that Dalton could have come up with an alternative ending, because, as I said, I loved everything else about this book. The protagonist, Eli, who has had such a troubled childhood. He questions the male role model characters in the book asking them if they consider themselves to be good men. Looking for the good in others, ultimately looking for the good in himself. He and his brother, who no longer talks after their father drove them into a dam are raised by their mother and her boyfriend who are heroin dealers. This results in Eli’s confusion. Because in his eyes, Lyle, the boyfriend, and father figure, although a heroin dealer, is striving to be a good man and doing everything for Eli and his brother. His confusion is only strengthened by his babysitter Slim, who has spent just about his whole life in jail for a murder that he may or may not have committed. The relationship between Eli and Slim is one of the highlights of the book for me. There are so many great moments in this novel. His father’s library, which is just an empty room, no shelves, filled with thousands upon thousands of books, and silverfish. Elie’s break-in to Boggo Road jail to see his mother. There are elements of magical realism contained within the novel, but these are left intentionally vague and can also be seen in a realistic light. I found these elements strengthened the narrative and were written in a way that caters for both fans and those who dislike magical realism. Even with the ending, this is still a stellar book. This is Dalton’s first work of fiction and I have a feeling he is going to become a star in the literary “universe”.
Trent Dalton writes for the award-winning The Weekend Australian Magazine. A former assistant editor of The Courier-Mail, he has won a Walkley, been a four-time winner of the national News Awards Feature Journalist of the Year Award, and was named Queensland Journalist of the Year at the 2011 Clarion Awards for excellence in Queensland media. His writing includes several short and feature-length film screenplays. His latest feature film screenplay, Home, is a love story inspired by his non-fiction collection Detours: Stories from the Street (2011), the culmination of three months immersed in Brisbane's homeless community, the proceeds of which went back to the 20 people featured within its pages. His journalism has twice been nominated for a United Nations of Australia Media Peace Award, and his debut novel Boy Swallows Universe was published in 2018.
He was nominated for a 2010 AFI Best Short Fiction screenplay award for his latest film, Glenn Owen Dodds, starring David Wenham. The film won the prestigious International Prix Canal award at the world's largest short film festival, The Clermont-Ferrand International Short Film Festival in France. Dalton's debut feature film screenplay, In the Silence, is currently in production.
Trent also hosted the ABC Conversations show while Richard Fidler was on a Churchill Fellowship.
There is an interview with Dalton at the HarperCollins site.