Boy Swallows Universe
A novel of love, crime, magic, fate and coming of age, set in Brisbane's violent working class suburban fringe - from one of Australia's most exciting new writers.Brisbane, 1983: A lost father, a mute brother, a mum in jail, a heroin dealer for a stepfather and a notorious crim for a babysitter. It's not as if Eli's life isn't complicated enough already. He's just trying to follow his heart, learning what it takes to be a good man, but life just keeps throwing obstacles in the way - not least of which is Tytus Broz, legendary Brisbane drug dealer.But if Eli's life is about to get a whole lot more serious. He's about to fall in love. And, oh yeah, he has to break into Boggo Road Gaol on Christmas Day, to save his mum.A story of brotherhood, true love and the most unlikely of friendships, Boy Swallows Universe will be the most heartbreaking, joyous and exhilarating novel you will read all year.'Trent Dalton is the most extraordinary writer - a rare talent.' Nikki Gemmell

Boy Swallows Universe Details

TitleBoy Swallows Universe
Author
LanguageEnglish
ReleaseJun 18th, 2018
PublisherHarperCollins Publishers Australia
ISBN-139781460753897
Rating
GenreFiction, Book Club, Cultural, Australia, Contemporary, Literary Fiction, Mystery, Crime, Young Adult, Coming Of Age, Audiobook, Adult Fiction

Boy Swallows Universe Review

  • PattyMacDotComma
    January 1, 1970
    5★+“Lyle says he approaches a drug deal in the same way he approaches Mum when she’s in a bad mood. Stay on your toes. Stay alert. Don’t let them stand too close to the kitchen knives. Be flexible, patient, adaptable. The buyer/angry Mum is always right.”Oliver Twist meets The Godfather. Those were the first books that came to mind. Films and TV that came to mind were Breaking Bad, What’s Eating Gilbert Grape, The Sopranos, and possibly a bit of Stephen King. But it’s 100% Trent Dalton, and what 5★+“Lyle says he approaches a drug deal in the same way he approaches Mum when she’s in a bad mood. Stay on your toes. Stay alert. Don’t let them stand too close to the kitchen knives. Be flexible, patient, adaptable. The buyer/angry Mum is always right.”Oliver Twist meets The Godfather. Those were the first books that came to mind. Films and TV that came to mind were Breaking Bad, What’s Eating Gilbert Grape, The Sopranos, and possibly a bit of Stephen King. But it’s 100% Trent Dalton, and what an absolute legend he is! This is bound to be at the top of my favourites list for a long time.“Nothing connects a city quite like South-East Asian heroin.”This is based on his life, his upbringing, his alcoholic dad, drug-affected mother and drug-dealer boyfriend ("Lyle" of the opening quotation), and the whole violent, vicious drug scene where he grew up near Brisbane with three brothers. The book, however, has only Eli telling the story and he has only one brother. This is a novel, not a memoir, although if you listen to the author's interviews, you could be excused for thinking it is, and I'm scared to think how many of these life-threatening experiences may have been his!Eli Bell is 12, one year younger than August “Gus” Bell, who doesn’t speak. We learn about the harrowing near-drowning that triggered that, and as for the rest, I really don’t know where to start. It is a fabulous coming-of-age story like no other than I can think of. Trent Dalton is already an acclaimed feature writer and journalist* (see below), but this is way beyond that. He lets the character of Slim Halliday (who was a real-life convicted criminal) teach young Eli how to deal with whatever life throws at you. I know him only as the character in the book, although Dalton knew him in real life. In the book, he was known for having survived Black Peter, the name for the solitary confinement most prisons call the hole. “Slim says half of his Boggo Road prison mates would have died after a week in Black Peter because half of any prison population, and any major city of the world for that matter, is filled with adult men with child minds. But an adult mind can take an adult man anywhere he wants to go.. . . ‘I could do things with time in there,’ Slim says. ‘I got so intimate with time that I could manipulate it, speed it up, slow it down. Some days all you wanted was to speed it up, so you had to trick your brain.’”He would take himself fishing, mentally, catch fish, clean them, cook them, roll a smoke, watch the sunset and pass the time so busily he was surprised to see the end of the day. But, when he had an hour in the sun in the exercise yard, he learned how to slow down time and stretch it out to feel like several hours. What a great skill.Another trick he had made me think instantly of The Memory Code by Lynne Kelly about memory systems in civilisations around the world. “Slim says a good way for me to remember the small details of my life is to associate moments and visions with things on my person or things in my regular waking life that I see and smell and touch often. Body things, bedroom things, kitchen things. This way I will have two reminders of any given detail for the price of one.”Slim would choose marks and scars and spots on his body as his memory points the way we might collect souvenirs to remind us of something or the Australian Aboriginal memory code actually stores memories in places and trees and landscape.“He’d thumb the peaks and valleys of his knuckles and they wold take him there, to the hills of the Gold Coast hinterland, take him all the way to Springbrook Falls, and the cold steel prison bed frame of cell D9 would become a water-worn limestone rock and the prison hole’s cold concrete floor beneath his bare feet summer-warm water to dip his toes into . . .”Dalton can write the longest sentences, and they are always just the right length for me. His timing is great, his characters are wonderful and terrifying and the story is warm, and scary and thrilling and believable. Eli adores his parents and his mum’s boyfriend and his “best friend” Slim. He is basically a good kid, but he does get up to more than innocent childhood mischief, and no wonder. We meet all of these people, not the least of whom is his mute brother Gus who writes in the air with his finger, which Eli reads easily, even backwards sometimes. Gus likes to indicate he sees the future – we’re not so sure, but something is going on there. The chapters begin with three-word titles - “Boy Writes Words” and “Boy Loses Luck” and “Boy Parts Sea” – the kind of three-word summary an editor he eventually works for demands a writer use to describe a story. The drug lords, the heavies with knives and machetes, the really, really, REALLY scary dudes – these are all part and parcel of growing up for young Eli Bell. And apparently, a lot of it, including the seeing Mum in prison on Christmas Day were all part of life for young Trent Dalton. I’m so glad he discovered that he was a boy who could write words, and not just in the air.Beautifully written. Memorable characters, places you can see and smell, and that sense of time and space you had when you were a kid. They’re all here.Thanks to NetGalley and HarperCollins Australia for the preview copy from which I’ve quoted. I haven’t begun to do this justice. Listen to the author here. He comes across as irrepressibly cheerful and enthusiastic. What a life! What a story!http://www.abc.net.au/radio/programs/...or herehttps://www.betterreading.com.au/podc...*“Podcast guest: Trent DaltonTrent Dalton is a staff writer for The Weekend Australian Magazine and former assistant editor of The Courier Mail. He’s a two-time winner of a Walkley Award for Excellence in Journalism, a three-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.”Photograph of Trent Dalton at the Better Reading podcast
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  • Carolyn
    January 1, 1970
    What an amazing debut novel! Boy Swallows Universe has jumped straight to the top of my outstanding novels for this year. Trent Dalton has somehow managed to spin a yarn about a Brisbane boy growing up amidst poverty, violence and crime while infusing it with love, joy and humour. His words and characters leap off the page with freshness and originality and yet you feel you know these people and the streets they live on. Although not autobiographical, the novel is reportedly based on Dalton’s ow What an amazing debut novel! Boy Swallows Universe has jumped straight to the top of my outstanding novels for this year. Trent Dalton has somehow managed to spin a yarn about a Brisbane boy growing up amidst poverty, violence and crime while infusing it with love, joy and humour. His words and characters leap off the page with freshness and originality and yet you feel you know these people and the streets they live on. Although not autobiographical, the novel is reportedly based on Dalton’s own childhood in the tough suburbs of Brisbane, the people he knew and the journey he took to become an award winning journalist.It’s the 1980s and 12 y old Eli Bell lives with his Mum Frances and stepdad Lyle in the Brisbane suburbs. He seemingly has a normal Aussie childhood, tearing off on his bike, playing in the streets and worshipping the Parramatta Eels, except for the fact that his older brother Gus is mute, having elected to give up speaking some years ago (after a traumatic event), his parents are drug dealers and his baby sitter is a notorious ex-crim called Slim (a real life character also known as the Houdini of Boggo Road). That all changes when Lyle is caught out by his boss doing a bit of extracurricular dealing and is dragged off by his brutal henchman never to be seen again, Eli’s Mum is sent to jail and Eli and Gus go to live with their depressed, drunken father. Despite all the violence and crime around him, Eli wants to grow up to be a good person and become a journalist providing he can navigate his way through warring street gangs and heroin dealers, somehow survive school and find a paper willing to take him on. Dalton’s story is engaging and compelling, beautifully written and peopled with fully fleshed characters with an ending that will have you cheering for Eli as he gets his chance to take on the drug lords.I should also say how much I love the cover with that colour and energy bursting outwards (just like the novel). The little bluebird in the centre has a significant meaning for Eli and the three word title (and chapter headings) reflect advice given to Eli when he meets his future news editor (that a story should be able to be summed up in three words).With thanks to Netgalley and Harper Collins Australia for a digital copy of this book
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  • Kai
    January 1, 1970
    “Cool, another book where a child is sexually exploited by an adult,” said no one ever.Can we please just stop supporting books that romanticise illegal relationships between adults and children.I am so bloody tired of this harmful narrative.note: I was repeatedly told that this is apparently not the case with this book. But people keep finding excuses to defend these so-called romances. I have seen it so many times in so many books.I will read this book. And you better be right about it not be “Cool, another book where a child is sexually exploited by an adult,” said no one ever.Can we please just stop supporting books that romanticise illegal relationships between adults and children.I am so bloody tired of this harmful narrative.note: I was repeatedly told that this is apparently not the case with this book. But people keep finding excuses to defend these so-called romances. I have seen it so many times in so many books.I will read this book. And you better be right about it not being a problematic piece of trash. Cause if it is, you all have a very big problem.
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  • Phrynne
    January 1, 1970
    So many good things about this book!!!* The totally perfect cover. Not only the gorgeous colours but also its appropriateness to the story.* The writing. Trent Dalton is a master of beautiful prose.* The characters. I loved Eli and Gus and their solid and completely understanding relationship.* The story itself which was horrific and mystical by turns and always totally absorbing.* The ending which although a little far fetched was also satisfying.For me it was slightly spoilt by too much inform So many good things about this book!!!* The totally perfect cover. Not only the gorgeous colours but also its appropriateness to the story.* The writing. Trent Dalton is a master of beautiful prose.* The characters. I loved Eli and Gus and their solid and completely understanding relationship.* The story itself which was horrific and mystical by turns and always totally absorbing.* The ending which although a little far fetched was also satisfying.For me it was slightly spoilt by too much information about drug dealing and the unnecessary overuse of two words which do not need to appear so frequently in a well written book. So not quite the full five stars. A memorable book though!
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  • Sharon Metcalf
    January 1, 1970
    To say I was excited to discover a novel by Trent Dalton is a massive understatement.   Boy Swallows Universe is his debut novel but I've adored the authors writing for years.  He's an award winning journalist and I cannot get enough of the way he tells a story, the compassion in his words and the way I feel I know the people he writes about.     And so it was with the characters he brought to life in this novel.      Eli Bell our protagonist is a young boy in Brisbane in the early 80's.  His ol To say I was excited to discover a novel by Trent Dalton is a massive understatement.   Boy Swallows Universe is his debut novel but I've adored the authors writing for years.  He's an award winning journalist and I cannot get enough of the way he tells a story, the compassion in his words and the way I feel I know the people he writes about.     And so it was with the characters he brought to life in this novel.      Eli Bell our protagonist is a young boy in Brisbane in the early 80's.  His older brother Gus has been mute since age six but has what Eli believes to be special powers.      His mother loves her sons desperately but it's fair to say she and her partner Lyle run with a bad crowd and make some questionable decisions.     They wanted a better life for the boys so started dealing heroin and have now made enemies of some dangerous people.     Eli's best friend is a notorious ex-criminal who had served time for murder; he's pen pals with a convicted sergeant-at-arms of an outlaw motorcycle gang.  He's exposed to things no boy  should be, and yet, amongst the crime, the coarse language (f-bombs and c-bombs galore), the violence (domestic and otherwise) there is love, there is learning, and believe it or not there is goodness.      Sure I questioned whether some elements were plausible but, to be frank, I didn't really care and just got swept away in the story.    I found this to be a book of contrasts and contradictions.   Dalton delivered some supposedly good guys who were evil and vice versa.   He expertly blended fact with fiction.   He wove elements of fantasy into the harsh reality of this story and somehow managed to transport me to a time and place which was incredibly familiar to me whilst simultaneously completely foreign to me.    It was a unique story and one I thoroughly enjoyed it.  My thanks and congratulations to Trent Dalton for his wonderful words.  Thanks also to HarperCollins Publishers Australia and NetGalley for the opportunity of reading this digital ARC in exchange for an honest review which it was my pleasure to provide.
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  • Trudie
    January 1, 1970
    3.5 Finally finished a book in 2019 and it really was the perfect summer holiday read for me. This debut novel by Queensland journalist Trent Dalton is a rather fun romp through 80s Brisbane. The pages practically ooze Ocker. Men are clad in short stubbies, pale singlets, and rubber thongs, they drink cans of XXXX, chomp on Coon sandwiches while saying things like "strewth mate, did you see those Parramatta eels go ?". It is just that kind of book. Is it overdone ?, yes it probably is. Enjoymen 3.5 Finally finished a book in 2019 and it really was the perfect summer holiday read for me. This debut novel by Queensland journalist Trent Dalton is a rather fun romp through 80s Brisbane. The pages practically ooze Ocker. Men are clad in short stubbies, pale singlets, and rubber thongs, they drink cans of XXXX, chomp on Coon sandwiches while saying things like "strewth mate, did you see those Parramatta eels go ?". It is just that kind of book. Is it overdone ?, yes it probably is. Enjoyment hinges on how much you can tolerate these kinds of nostalgia trips and possibly how familiar you are with Brisbane.I found this to be a fun and frenetic reading experience, a tad messy and hyperactive but in a loveable way. For a debut novel it is pretty darn good, but I also think it could have been a far better book if the editors had reigned in some of Daltons exuberance. The repeated phrases of Your end is a dead blue wren and Caitlin digs deep didn't add a whole lot to the story in my opinion. I was probably on track to give this a solid four "beach read" stars but the ending spiralled into something like a comic book caper and to be fair since I have previously panned Washington Black for its anaemic looking bad guy then I have to call out the one dimensional nature of all the bad guys in this book as well. What these two books have taught me is to run a mile from elderly men, dressed all in white, with sickly countenances, pale thin quivering lips and flinty watery eyes.
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  • Lea Davey
    January 1, 1970
    WOW!!! Was it just because I was born in Brisbane and have always lived nearby, or is this book simply the most clever, entertaining, emotional, funny, outstanding and amazing novel that I have read in a long time! I absolutely loved the familiarity of the places, but even more, the harrowing, rollercoaster tale of a young man called Eli who grows up in a severely dysfunctional family. The story reveals the sinister, criminal and dangerous side of life that takes place almost around the kitchen WOW!!! Was it just because I was born in Brisbane and have always lived nearby, or is this book simply the most clever, entertaining, emotional, funny, outstanding and amazing novel that I have read in a long time! I absolutely loved the familiarity of the places, but even more, the harrowing, rollercoaster tale of a young man called Eli who grows up in a severely dysfunctional family. The story reveals the sinister, criminal and dangerous side of life that takes place almost around the kitchen table, while young brothers Eli and August, struggle to work out the relationships and meaning in their lives, in relation to the people they love the most. Not only is the story riveting and had me immersed until the last page but Trent Dalton's descriptions were so interesting that I felt like I needed to go back and re-read the words that flowed so smoothly across the pages. As I turned the last page I felt emotionally drained and I realised that I had just read a love story. A story of family love, regardless of the circumstances.
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  • John Purcell
    January 1, 1970
    This book has a big heart. But it isn't Tuesdays with Morrie. Imagine if the kid from the Wonder Years, Kevin Arnold, walked into an episode of Underbelly, that's what it's like. Heart with a kick. And it does have quite a kick when it gets going. You'll know what I mean when you reach that bit... Oh boy. And to think, Boy Swallows Universe is almost a true story. Loved this book. Get a copy.
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  • Michael
    January 1, 1970
    When trying to describeTrent Dalton's debut novel the best way I can put is Life After Life combined with the movie The Butterfly Effect while settling on one life in an Australian setting. Protagonist Eli Bell's lives are unfortunate and chaotic with a drunk father, a purposely mute brother, a mother on her way to jail, a drug dealer step-dad and an ex-con murderer for a babysitter Slim. Also, only friend other than the nonrelated guardian is a prisoner pen-pal.But when his step-dads greed trag When trying to describeTrent Dalton's debut novel the best way I can put is Life After Life combined with the movie The Butterfly Effect while settling on one life in an Australian setting. Protagonist Eli Bell's lives are unfortunate and chaotic with a drunk father, a purposely mute brother, a mother on her way to jail, a drug dealer step-dad and an ex-con murderer for a babysitter Slim. Also, only friend other than the nonrelated guardian is a prisoner pen-pal.But when his step-dads greed tragically catches up with him Eli finds his life's purpose even if it takes multiple ones to achieve so he can move on and be with the girl of his dreams. Eli goes on a path that few would want to encounter in one lifetime, let alone many. That is of families wrecked by the prospect of quick bucks for drugs and a corrupt system that allowed it to thrive for generations.Despite the bleakness that is found in the pages there are glimpses of light and hope that reveal themselves. Eli's family for one, although leading a hard knocks life hold onto love wherever it can be found. This along with the subtle magical realism parts for a moving story that will stay in the mind for a long time. The fact that the story itself is based on life experiences from the author is the icing on the cake for what is a profound episode.
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  • Amanda - Mrs B's Book Reviews
    January 1, 1970
    *https://mrsbbookreviews.wordpress.com2.5 starsBoy Swallows Universe, by debut author Trent Dalton is 2018 publication from Fourth Estate, an imprint of major Australian publisher Harper Collins. It was released to critical and popular acclaim, earning a place on bestseller lists and book clubs across the country. It has also been a permanent fixture on the social media circuit, which is where my interest was first sparked in this novel. Inspired by the real life events experienced by the author *https://mrsbbookreviews.wordpress.com2.5 starsBoy Swallows Universe, by debut author Trent Dalton is 2018 publication from Fourth Estate, an imprint of major Australian publisher Harper Collins. It was released to critical and popular acclaim, earning a place on bestseller lists and book clubs across the country. It has also been a permanent fixture on the social media circuit, which is where my interest was first sparked in this novel. Inspired by the real life events experienced by the author of this coming of age tale, Trent Dalton, Boy Swallows Universe is meditation on the trials and tribulations of a turbulent boyhood, life and humanity.Dubbed an Australian classic in the making and likened to the work of the great Tim Winton, Trent Dalton’s Boy Swallows Universe opens in Brisbane in the mid 1980s. It is centred on the story of Eli, a thirteen year old boy from a troubled family. His brother is mute, his mother a junkie, his father is an absent figure while his stepfather is a drug dealer. To top it all off, his babysitter is a convicted killer. While Eli negotiates the world around him, he must learn a tough lesson of what constitutes as right and wrong. He follows his beating heart and must work to avoid life’s obstacles. Things come to a head for Eli when his absent father comes back on the scene and together they must stage a spectacular jail break to rescue his mother. Boy Swallows Universe is about the alliances we make in life and the connections that matter most.I am a real schmuck when it comes to spectacular book covers and I must admit that Boy Swallows Universe gained my full attention from the first glimpse I had of this vibrant cover. The accompanying motif of a blue wren amongst the bold colour splashes also caught my eye. With so much positive media attention and endorsement for this book, I was keen to explore it for myself.What I respected the most about Boy Swallows Universe was the fact that the author, Trent Dalton, lays his childhood and personal experiences bare on the page for the reader to discover. Even though this is Trent Dalton’s life story, it is in the guise of a fiction novel. I applaud Dalton for this bravery and his openness. I takes guts to tell a story of this nature and he does this with a sense of honesty. But, we must realise that this is a fiction based novel, so Dalton has clearly taken liberties and changed certain details of his life story for the purposes of this novel. I was stuck early on by the truncated prose.‘Your end is a dead blue wren. Boy swallows universe.Caitlyn spies.No doubt about it.These are the answers.The answers to the questions’.Coming of age novels seem to be all the rage. I know I have read a good handful over the last year. Boy Swallows Universe easily falls into this category. It also offers a glimpse into sibling connections, troubled family relationships, role models, boyhood, first love and masculinity. These are strong themes, explored alongside unlikely friendships, morality, tragedy, loss, danger and adventure. Combining these dramatic themes alongside the big characters in this novel gives more credence to this tale of a boy finding his feet in 1980s Australia.Reading this tale of growing up in 1980s Australia was nostalgic for me. I also grew up in the 1980s, but my own childhood was far removed from poor Eli’s experiences. It gave me an appreciation for my sheltered and happy childhood! Dalton does a good job of recreating 1980s Australia, with a particular focus on Brisbane and the housing commission experiences of the underclass of this region.Boy Swallows Universe is a book that emphasises action, drama and adventure. Life isn’t easy or smooth sailing for young Eli and he is a colourful narrator. There are plenty of twists and turns to keep the reader occupied, along with good serve of destructive pathways for Eli to negotiate. This is all told in good humour and wit, thanks to Dalton’s prose.Ultimately, I have the feeling I may be the outsider with this book. I have drawn out as much by the way of positives as I can. In the end, I felt disconnected from the book, for reasons I cannot pinpoint. Whilst I had an appreciation for Dalton’s intentions, my relationship with this book, no matter how hard I tried, did not flourish. However, if you are reading this and are thinking twice about reading Boy Swallows Universe, I do suggest that you give it chance, as there is so much praise racked up for this one.‘I stand on the thick edge of that brown brick prison wall and I see a yellow sand beach below me, but that beach does not run to the ocean water, it runs to the universe , an expanding black void filled with galaxies and planets and supernovas and a thousand astronomical events occurring in unison’.*Book #1 of the 2019 Aussie male author challenge
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  • Emmy9394
    January 1, 1970
    This book is my new favourite Australian fiction novel and a strong contender for best book of 2018 (yes, I am calling it this early). Trent Dalton writes with incredible grace and his story keeps raising stakes I really didn't think could go any higher. Once I hit page 142, I couldn't stop. This book is addictive as hell. I already can't wait to reread it, and I have been struggling with every other fiction I've tried to read since. Trent Dalton has blown it out of the park with amazing plot, g This book is my new favourite Australian fiction novel and a strong contender for best book of 2018 (yes, I am calling it this early). Trent Dalton writes with incredible grace and his story keeps raising stakes I really didn't think could go any higher. Once I hit page 142, I couldn't stop. This book is addictive as hell. I already can't wait to reread it, and I have been struggling with every other fiction I've tried to read since. Trent Dalton has blown it out of the park with amazing plot, gorgeous characters and stunning prose. All the positive adjectives in the world cannot encapsulate how much I enjoyed myself while reading this book. :) :) Make sure you get a copy of this; there will be no regret. Better than Jasper Jones (I almost can't believe I wrote that sentence) and perfect for everyone from teenagers to grandparents. Very Australian, very real, very brilliant. (Surprised I've managed to write words and not just flail in wonder...)
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  • Jaclyn Crupi
    January 1, 1970
    2.5 Another addition to the boy coming-of-age gritty Australian crime and criminal-populated genre. Think Jasper Jones, Breath, Wimmera. Dalton renders a distinct voice for young Eli which might have drawn me in had I not found the writing and plot affected and overdone, especially in the ‘Aussie-ness’ of it all. A lot of readers will enjoy this book I think and I’ll certainly be in the minority but as soon as I sense a falseness in fiction I am taken out of the narrative and all I see are the l 2.5 Another addition to the boy coming-of-age gritty Australian crime and criminal-populated genre. Think Jasper Jones, Breath, Wimmera. Dalton renders a distinct voice for young Eli which might have drawn me in had I not found the writing and plot affected and overdone, especially in the ‘Aussie-ness’ of it all. A lot of readers will enjoy this book I think and I’ll certainly be in the minority but as soon as I sense a falseness in fiction I am taken out of the narrative and all I see are the laboured mechanics. This happened for me quite early in this far too long book and there was no going back.
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  • Tim
    January 1, 1970
    No doubt about it, this is a bloody ripper of a book. No doubt about it.Boy Swallows Universe follows Eli and his selectively mute brother as they navigate 80s inner-suburbs Brisbane. They are babysat by a convicted murderer, raised by a heroin addict mother and her drug-dealing boyfriend, and are often bullied mercilessly at school. However, as heavy as the situation is, Eli's narrative perspective is funny, sweet and incredibly refreshing. Far from naive, he still sees the world in shades of g No doubt about it, this is a bloody ripper of a book. No doubt about it.Boy Swallows Universe follows Eli and his selectively mute brother as they navigate 80s inner-suburbs Brisbane. They are babysat by a convicted murderer, raised by a heroin addict mother and her drug-dealing boyfriend, and are often bullied mercilessly at school. However, as heavy as the situation is, Eli's narrative perspective is funny, sweet and incredibly refreshing. Far from naive, he still sees the world in shades of grey and notes how good-hearted people often do bad things. His insights are full of humour, often profound and always entertaining. Plus, there are undercurrents of magic and time travel. Seriously. You'll fall in love with Eli and his brother as they come of age in what can only be described as domestic hell. The repetitive writing of Boys Swallows Universe get a little, well, repetitive at times, but often that's part of its poetic charm. Apart from that small gripe, I think this is a truly wonderful story that gives an amazing snapshot of Australian life. Don't be put off by the potentially soul-sucking scenario of the Boy Swallows Universe. It is in reality very uplifting and well worth the read.One of my hot picks for the Miles Franklin Award short-list for this year. 4 stars.
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  • Thomas
    January 1, 1970
    It's only been nine days but I have already read the best book of the year. Well, that might be a slight exaggeration but it's not far from the truth. At the least it was one helluva way to start a new year of reading.Trent Dalton has poured his soul into this book, and you can feel the passion. It's a mix of ferocity and tenderness, childhood dreaming and adult fears. His writing is sublime, never trying too hard and always finding just the right details for the reader. It might very well be th It's only been nine days but I have already read the best book of the year. Well, that might be a slight exaggeration but it's not far from the truth. At the least it was one helluva way to start a new year of reading.Trent Dalton has poured his soul into this book, and you can feel the passion. It's a mix of ferocity and tenderness, childhood dreaming and adult fears. His writing is sublime, never trying too hard and always finding just the right details for the reader. It might very well be the next Aussie classic, the book that just about anyone can read, from an angsty teenage boy to an older woman looking for the next book club pick. To top it all off the book is set in Brisbane where I grew up; I could just feel the summer heat as Trent took me around the city (the ending will appeal to all school children who grew up around Brisbane). Put simply, it's genius and you will have to read it.
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  • Alex
    January 1, 1970
    Boy Swallows Universe is the big buzz in Australian books right now. It’s going to sell itself, as all of the pull quotes and window displays tell us. First it’s about one thing, then it’s about another, then you turn the page and years have passed, but one thing is certain: Boy Swallows Universe is an Australian novel that is at least in part about children who have to fend for themselves in the face of their parental figures’ involvement in drugs. We certainly haven’t published one of those be Boy Swallows Universe is the big buzz in Australian books right now. It’s going to sell itself, as all of the pull quotes and window displays tell us. First it’s about one thing, then it’s about another, then you turn the page and years have passed, but one thing is certain: Boy Swallows Universe is an Australian novel that is at least in part about children who have to fend for themselves in the face of their parental figures’ involvement in drugs. We certainly haven’t published one of those before. Cynical though that sounds, Boy Swallows Universe isn’t bad, it just isn’t up to much and is up to too much all at once.Boy Swallows Universe is impossible to blurb, but HarperCollins has tried. Eli Bell lives in the suburban Brisbane of the eighties with his mute brother August, his recovering drug addict mother, and her heroin dealer boyfriend Lyle. Periodically Eli is babysat by the real life prison escape artist Arthur “Slim” Halliday, and from him he learns about moral ambiguity. Boy Swallows Universe isn’t about anything in particular; the moment you think it has a through line, debut author (long time columnist for The Australian) Trent Dalton throws one time jump at you, and then another. Sagas, epics, and coming of age stories can cover a span of years, but Boy Swallows Universe doesn’t use them well. At times it feels like Dalton is ageing up his lead so that he can justify reciprocal interest from Caitlyn Spies, a journalist a good eight years older than his humble protagonist. Rather than having an elasticity in its length, Boy Swallows Universe sags.Dalton opens with mysticism, and has an inconsistent approach to maintaining it. Gritty realism combines with soothsaying and takes a detour into a ridiculous portrait of the nativity at a women’s prison, and no single tone is ever struck. If it weren’t for its sudden paucity of events, Boy Swallows Universe would be exhausting. The drugs and the family drama provide a veneer of profundity that Dalton can’t quite cash in, but they’ll win over a lot of readers regardless.Boy Swallows Universe is messy, but there’s just enough suburban ennui mixed with improbable adventure to capture what Australian readers seem to want want outside of their straight up crime novels or quirky romantic comedies. There’s definitely an audience for Boy Swallows Universe, but it is perhaps not quite so deserving of the huge publisher push it has received. It’s no Drippy Pigeon , that much is clear.
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  • Bridget
    January 1, 1970
    I've been worried that the hype would oversell the book. Do not fear! If anything this book deserves even more hype. This is going to be in my top books of the year, it has everything I like in a book snarky humour, a rollicking pace, fantastic characters who are ghastly and loveable and a storyline that keeps giving. And it is funny, ridiculously horrifically funny!Eli Bell is growing up in the outer suburbs of Brisbane. His mum and her partner are dealing drugs to make money and are both good I've been worried that the hype would oversell the book. Do not fear! If anything this book deserves even more hype. This is going to be in my top books of the year, it has everything I like in a book snarky humour, a rollicking pace, fantastic characters who are ghastly and loveable and a storyline that keeps giving. And it is funny, ridiculously horrifically funny!Eli Bell is growing up in the outer suburbs of Brisbane. His mum and her partner are dealing drugs to make money and are both good people. August, Eli's brother, hasn't spoken a word since he was 6 he paints words in the air which Eli can read. Slim, the babysitter is one of the country's most famous criminals. Eli's best friend is part of a Vietnamese gang who are just downright nasty. This is Australia in 1984 and this is the underbelly of the nation. Eli is a thinker, he loves all the people in his life even though they live a life of crime it isn't what these people do that he loves it is how they feel and love and talk to him. They tell him stories and Eli is a lover of stories, his dream is to become a reporter for the Brisbane Chronicle and all the terrible things that happen to him and August are what is going to eventually get him there. We meet Eli when he is a kid, going to primary school, riding his pusher and begging to come along with the drug drop offs with the folks and we follow him through to the age of 19 when he meets his childhood nemeses, the man who chopped off his finger and the man who ordered it done. Along the way we have some of the most memorable scenes I've ever read, boy sneaks into prison to see his mum on Xmas day, boy escapes a machete wielding gang, a horrendous toilet scene when August and Eli are sent to live with their dad. There are so many more every page is full of wonderful and fantastic in every sense of the word scenes.Above all what I've loved is the sense of love for family, of struggle beyond what any kid should have to endure. The terror of the hideous things that happen to Eli but also the wonderfulness of his imagination which is able to take him out of his circumstances and soar. There is poetry and lyricism and heart. The sad scenes will tug at your heart strings and bring you to tears.This book would be a wonderful companion for Jasper Jones and books by Scot Gardner and Christos Tsiolkas I know it is being compared to Tim Winton but I think it is more gritty. Read it. Seriously, just read it.
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  • Lauren
    January 1, 1970
    You don’t have to be Australian to understand this book. You will understand Australia if you read this book. It’s dreamy and nostalgic, and it’s bleak and hard.
  • Emily May
    January 1, 1970
    ARC provided in exchange for honest review 🌈
  • - ̗̀ fantine ̖́-
    January 1, 1970
    Eli Bell doesn't yet know what kind of man he'll be. He knows that there are good men and bad men, but how do you tell which is which? He thinks his step father is a good man, even though he deals heroin. His babysitter and best friend Slim is a good man, even though he was found guilty of murder. Everybody says philanthropist Tytus Broz who runs the prosthetic limb factory is a good man, but the chill that runs down Eli’s pure bone spine tells him otherwise. This book blew me away in such a won Eli Bell doesn't yet know what kind of man he'll be. He knows that there are good men and bad men, but how do you tell which is which? He thinks his step father is a good man, even though he deals heroin. His babysitter and best friend Slim is a good man, even though he was found guilty of murder. Everybody says philanthropist Tytus Broz who runs the prosthetic limb factory is a good man, but the chill that runs down Eli’s pure bone spine tells him otherwise. This book blew me away in such a wonderfully rare way, it crawled under my skin, clouded my thoughts and made me miss my bus stop. Trent Dalton has poured his soul into this book and with such vulnerability comes a perfectly unique writing style that transforms words to magic. My heart ached for Eli’s childhood of dreams and despair, he is a character that will stay with me for a very long time. My new favourite Australian fiction book, destined to become a classic.
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  • Kate
    January 1, 1970
    Behold, Trent Dalton! Loved this book!! Straight to the poolroom, ***** / ***** I think I'll put him on the shelf next to Tim Winton, or somewhere near Roddy Doyle (the guy who wrote The Commitments etc), or maybe over near that shabby well read copy of Jasper Jones. Boy Swallows Universe has all the ingredients that I most love in a really GOOD story: it's Australian, it's the vibe, it's the oh so clever writing, it's the human experience of love, desperation, friendship, failure and hope, it's Behold, Trent Dalton! Loved this book!! Straight to the poolroom, ***** / ***** I think I'll put him on the shelf next to Tim Winton, or somewhere near Roddy Doyle (the guy who wrote The Commitments etc), or maybe over near that shabby well read copy of Jasper Jones. Boy Swallows Universe has all the ingredients that I most love in a really GOOD story: it's Australian, it's the vibe, it's the oh so clever writing, it's the human experience of love, desperation, friendship, failure and hope, it's criminals, it's fumbling, foibling families, it's true romance, it's a young narrator to adore and it's a good dose of jaw dropping plot twists. It's only my first book for 2018 but I know young Eli will stay with me for a long time to come. Thank you Trent Dalton for writing this book. Loved every moment. What will he write next!?
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  • Shirley Bateman
    January 1, 1970
    I gave this a good chance but I just couldn’t finish it. So irritating. It felt like a children’s book about drug addicts.
  • David Barton
    January 1, 1970
    If you read one book this year it has to be this. Simply brilliant, the best book I’ve read in a long, long time. Beautifully written with a real honesty.
  • Hannah
    January 1, 1970
    A book that has you laughing and crying within the first ten pages is off to a very good start. An emotional rollercoaster, Boy Swallows Universe is set to become an Australian classic. Jasper Jones, Melina Marchetta, Tim Winton, My Brother Jack, Christos Tsiolkas, Johnno... add Trent Dalton to the list.Set in the Brisbane suburbs, this is a novel has everything - hardship, family, love, a little crime and mystery. But above all it is deeply moving, and an incredible portrayal of a life in the s A book that has you laughing and crying within the first ten pages is off to a very good start. An emotional rollercoaster, Boy Swallows Universe is set to become an Australian classic. Jasper Jones, Melina Marchetta, Tim Winton, My Brother Jack, Christos Tsiolkas, Johnno... add Trent Dalton to the list.Set in the Brisbane suburbs, this is a novel has everything - hardship, family, love, a little crime and mystery. But above all it is deeply moving, and an incredible portrayal of a life in the suburbs that is particularly Australian. I once studied a subject called "Reading Suburbia" which looked at a distinctly Australian notion of suburbia, this book would sit on that syllabus comfortably (who knows, it may even end up there). You'll recognise the streets, the houses, the people - you've seen them in reality, maybe you were one of them. But then I don't think your babysitter was a notorious killer and repeated prison escapee, and if your siblings are anything like mine they certainly don't have the patience to live in perpetual silence. Both ordinary and extraordinary, this book will capture your heart.
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  • Kali Napier
    January 1, 1970
    This is the most incredible book I’ve read in ages, if ever. I found it difficult to tear myself away from this fictional universe each night and when I did I lay awake for ages turning over the images in my mind.
  • Carole
    January 1, 1970
    This is just a superb book. The kind of book where you have the dilemma of wanting to race through it to find out what happens next and at the same time wanting to slowly savour the poetic language. Australia in the 1970s and 1980s feels authentically described, and the danger from the seedy underworld that surrounds Eli and his brother is certainly real and yet there is also humour in the way Eli toils through life with the optimism that things will be OK. I absolutely loved this and didn't wan This is just a superb book. The kind of book where you have the dilemma of wanting to race through it to find out what happens next and at the same time wanting to slowly savour the poetic language. Australia in the 1970s and 1980s feels authentically described, and the danger from the seedy underworld that surrounds Eli and his brother is certainly real and yet there is also humour in the way Eli toils through life with the optimism that things will be OK. I absolutely loved this and didn't want it to end.
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  • Anna Baillie-Karas
    January 1, 1970
    This book has so much heart. It’s generous, touching & at times very funny. Slightly unbelievable but every word rings true. I loved the friendly, engaging tone and narrator Eli - a flawed, sympathetic & bright character. Whilst larger than life, the characters are completely realistic & vividly bring to life suburban 1980s Brisbane. It gives a great sense of the culture & people doing it tough in outer suburbs. A great yarn, highly recommended.
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  • Laura Brading
    January 1, 1970
    I get the feeling that we're all going to be hearing a lot about this book. That quote on the back that forecasts it to be an Australian classic is not just publisher hyperbole, this is an amazing read. And a debut no less from journalist Trent Dalton. Set in suburban Brisbane in the 80s (full disclosure, I'm originally from Queensland, things got nostalgic), it's the coming of age story of Eli Bell who has a fair bit more stacked up against him than your average teenager. His father is estrange I get the feeling that we're all going to be hearing a lot about this book. That quote on the back that forecasts it to be an Australian classic is not just publisher hyperbole, this is an amazing read. And a debut no less from journalist Trent Dalton. Set in suburban Brisbane in the 80s (full disclosure, I'm originally from Queensland, things got nostalgic), it's the coming of age story of Eli Bell who has a fair bit more stacked up against him than your average teenager. His father is estranged, his brother mute, his mother incarcerated, his babysitter a notorious criminal, his only job prospect an in with the local heroin syndicate. But for all of its violence and despair, this is also a story of love, family, friendship, dreams and forgiveness. The stakes are high, the pace phenomenal, the writing really, really beautiful, the plot sickeningly enthralling, the characters unique and structured and memorable. I know I'm moving into cliched territory here so I will leave it at that except to say that it’s one of the best Australian books I've read, well, ever! Publishes in July
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  • Sebastian
    January 1, 1970
    That was something very special. From the first pages I had a feeling that I am entering another universe while reading this book, a universe with different rules of time and space. And I was not mistaken. A beautiful coming-of-age story about two brothers and their difficult youth. Written in a dynamic, gripping, poetic way with colourful characters and highly engaging storyline. Made me think of John Irving and Haruki Murakami with a pinch of Australian, unique perspective on life.
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  • Dawn
    January 1, 1970
    This book was fantastic and one of the best I’ve read in some time. I’ve been a fan of Trent Dalton’s journalism and always look out for his features in the Weekend Australian magazine so I had high hopes for this novel. It’s a mix between a coming of age/crime/family/epic drama, and I didn’t want it to end, but when it did, I was so satisfied. There were some very confronting scenes, but balanced by lots of warmth between the characters, all very original and complex. Highly recommended!
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  • Jacqui Barton
    January 1, 1970
    I just loved everything about this book, it made me laugh, cry and sometimes both.A beautiful coming of age story that had me from the start. The writing was just beautiful.
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