Updated: Aug 17, 2018
Boy Swallows Universe
This book simultaneously broke my heart, made me cry, had me reeling with horror and finally restored my hope in humanity.
It is absolutely beautifully written, with moments of pure poetry and lyricism and juxtaposed against a setting of abject poverty, crime, violence and horror. The book is equally wondrous as it is dark and disturbing.
The story is told from Eli Bell's perspective, a boy who feels powerless amongst the crime, heroin addiction and violence his family faces. However, he and his brother August find hope in their futures and forge an unbreakable bond that helps each one of them survive the darkness of their childhood. The love they share for their mother, their Queen, is heartbreakingly beautiful and bleak as they feel her psychological and physical suffering. August, is a unique and wondrous character; a special 'weirdo mute' who writes words in the air predicting future outcomes, such as the repeated line 'your end is a dead blue wren.'
The novel's mystical elements are reminiscent of Tim Winton's Cloudstreet, unexplained and eerily present; and just as beautifully written.
The inclusion of Arthur 'Slim' Halliday the 'Houdini of Boggo Road,' explores whether men are good, and whether one can accept wisdom from evil men. It explores the idea that everyone is simultaneously good and bad, but it is our circumstance and our choices that
define who we are.
It is unsurprising that Dalton writes much of the novel from his own childhood experiences, the novel is too raw and has too much heart to be a complete work of fiction. Dalton has bled onto the page, leaving the reader with a unique, beautiful and haunting depiction of how trauma impacts the childhood brain and how we can overcome anything.
If you read one book this year, make it this one!