Updated: Dec 23, 2019
This novel still shines as one of the standouts I've read in recent years. so I went back to see what I'd said about it on Twitter. I was surprised to see that it's not even a book I read this year, although I still find myself thinking about it. Here's my tweet comment 2018: Book Swallows Reader - 6 stars - Trent Dalton is a master of prose and storytelling. Dark topics, light penmanship, and a gripping read. Loved this book!
I do remember the sensation of being swept along by the story. I do remember being envious of the prose and wit and general elegance of the book. I took a look at my Goodreads review:
To most people, young Eli Bell's life would seem a horrific mess (junkie mother, heroin-dealing stepfather, ex-murder crime babysitter, mute brother ...) but recounted from a child's perspective this story is told with a captivating combination of gruesome realism and magical optimism. Dark subjects, recounted with a lightness of pen.
Reading'Boy Swallows Universe' felt a bit like following Hansel into a dark wood. From the first line 'Your end is a dead blue wren ... ' the reader is offered a few unanswered and intriguing 'crumbs'. Empathising immediately with young Eli's plight you feel compelled to follow him into the unknown, feeling increasingly apprehensive about what you suspect lies ahead, and, with everything crossed, hoping everything will turn out well.
The characterisation in this story is convincing and gripping. The relationships between Eli and his family (especially his bother August) and friends made me wince at times, but those relationships were also full of love and moved me both to laughter and tears. The baddies were convincing because they seemed so 'real' either because of their situations, or the fact that they had alleviating characteristics that you could empathise with (to some extent!). Good and bad were upended and interwoven.
I don't want to give anything away, but I definitely give this novel a heart-felt thumbs up. Trent Dalton is seriously a master of prose and story-telling. Superb! Sum it up in just three words: Book swallows reader!
I think that also sums up why it is on my list. If you haven't read it yet, you should get on with it!