- 27 December 2020
This is another book full of harsh realities, the power of positivity, and an unbreakable belief that everything will be alright. I have this as does Trent and it oozes out of his main characters, like his previous Boy Swallows Universe where the main character was a young boy, now his focus is on a young girl (like his own daughters).
This is a cruel Darwin (in the Northern Territory, Australia) in 1942, staring a grave digger's daughter (Molly), an aspiring actress (Greta), a WWII fighter pilot from Japan (Yukio), and a variety of other characters including First Australians. Molly uses imagination to survive as she searches for questions to the answers she doesn't even know she has, trying to escape her violent family, wrapped up in an adventure to make sense of her (and her travel companions') grief.
Molly’s mother says her first best friend is the sky. Because the sky is every girl’s best friend. There are things the sky will tell a girl about herself that a friend could never tell her. Molly’s mother says the sky is watching over Molly for a reason. Every lesson she will ever need to learn about herself is waiting up there in that sky, and all she has to do is look up.
The connection to nature, the sky, and particularly the Australian bush is the best character in the story. You can feel how much Trent learned from spending time in the Northern Territory with Aboriginal guide Tess Atie and her partner Greg Balding, which Trent acknowledges at the end. I also loved the magic of the First Australian's history and mythology flowing through the book as well as the Japanese mythologies.
(image from Booktopia)
(the book is) a transcendent beam of sunlight breaking through a violent tropical storm system... It’s a new tale of the Australian Gothic crossed with a psychotropic cowboy movie. It’s a story of heroes and villains, foxes and water buffalo, fighter planes and birds of prey, real magic and real love, epitaphs and aphorisms, lost treasure and lost life. It’s a love letter to the nation. It’s your favourite childhood adventure story dictated by Emily Dickinson, Walt Whitman and William Shakespeare, with a score by Franz Liszt. It’s dead serious. It’s completely ridiculous. It’s all of these things and more.
This from The Sydney Morning Herald:
We've seen Trent Dalton's preoccupation with the power of words and stories to transform damaged children before, in his debut novel, Boy Swallows Universe. We've also seen the powerlessness of childhood, a visceral thing in his hands. The thing that makes his work so remarkable, though, is his seamless and plausible blending of reality and the mystical... Magic, or at least the possibility of it, is again important in All Our Shimmering Skies, but not as literary technique added on a whim. Dalton's fantastical elements are a logical psychological progression for Molly... On paper, Uplifting Australian Gritty Fantasy Gothic seems an unlikely mix, yet somehow it works brilliantly. Dalton's novels are companion pieces exploring how traumatised children cope and evolve under the most dreadful of circumstances, while also being cracking good reads.
And the last word from BetterReading.com.au:
A story about gifts that fall from the sky, curses we dig from the earth, and the secrets we bury inside ourselves. All Our Shimmering Skies is an odyssey of true love and grave danger, of darkness and light, of bones and blue skies. It is a love letter to Australia and an ode to the art of looking up - a buoyant, beautiful and magical novel, abrim with warmth, wit and wonder.
(Image from Actually Boutique)
As Australian as outback red dirt and as universal as the sky young Molly Hook's journey takes place beneath, All Our Shimmering Skies is an open-hearted wonder, by turns heartbreaking and full of hope, no less than an instant classic - Venero Armanno
Australia has a new literary hero. Molly Hook - part Cordelia, part Jo March, part Pippi Longstocking - pulls us into a story and a landscape that is mythic, beguiling and almost hallucinatory in its beauty. And instantly recognisable as our own - Kristina Olsson
This is storytelling at its absolute purest, a truly courageous expression of longing, hope and love … against unimaginable odds - Asher Keddie
EXCERPT in the Australian (paywall)