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Ratings and Book Reviews ()

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4.6 out of 5
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All Book Reviews

  • Funny, heartbreaking, uplifting

    "Boy Swallows Universe" is set in the 1980s. At the time of reading, I thought this was a convenient way of plotting a story without mobile phones. However, author Trent Dalton estimates his story is “60 per cent fact and 40 per cent fantasy”. I wish I had known this before I started reading the book. The childish antics, choppy narrative, and confusing flashbacks - compounded with the drug dealing and gratuitous violence - nearly caused me to give up about a third of the way through. I persevered, and I’m so glad I did. Knowing now that most of the story was based on the author’s own experiences, makes it all the more harrowing. Notwithstanding the serious subject matter, the book is full of dry humor, literary references, and astute observations on human behavior. It follows the childhood of Eli Bell between the ages of twelve and eighteen and introduces us to the key players in his life. Arthur “Slim” Halliday was “the greatest prison escapee who ever lived”. The papers call him “the Taxi Driver Killer” but twelve-year-old Eli says, “I just call him my babysitter.” Slim teaches Eli that the way “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.” And this is how Eli recounts his story, collecting rich details by which he will later remember the events that shape his life. Eli’s thirteen-year-old brother August, who is mute after a traumatic childhood incident, writes in the air with prophetic flourish, “forever dipping his finger into his eternal glass well of invisible ink”. Despite being a heroin dealer, his mother’s boyfriend Lyle is a loving stepfather and role model and the first man Eli ever loves. Everything Eli lives through will lead up to that one moment of truth, when his adult life collides with his childhood life, and he finally gets the chance to avenge Lyle. Eli himself is wise beyond his years: “… the age of my body matters nothing compared to the age of my soul”. It’s no wonder he falls for the much older Caitlyn Spies, criminal reporter for the Courier Mail. His eye for detail and his childhood amongst criminals, make him want to become a journalist. “I’m not interested in crime as much as the people who commit crimes,” he says. He’s fascinated with the idea that one pivotal event can determine your destiny. “I’m interested in how they got to the point they got to. I’m interested in that moment when they decided to be bad instead of good.” The book is full of such moments, when seemingly insignificant events and details come back into play: Slim telling Eli how he broke out of jail, the lucky freckle on Eli’s right index finger, his love of football, his visit to the clock tower, the first line of the book … “Your end is a dead blue wren,” is what August writes in the air at the beginning of the book. And, in the end, it all comes back to that beginning. “Forward to the beginning,” Eli says. “That’s all I’ve ever been doing. Moving forward to the start.” Funny, heartbreaking, uplifting. Warnings: coarse language, drug use, graphic violence, drug dealing, general grossness, sexual references, domestic violence, alcoholism. Full blog post:

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    34 person found this review helpful

    34 people found this review helpful

    34 of 38 people found this review helpful

  • Simply a great story

    I'm not the strongest of readers and struggled a bit at first so just before the half way mark I took a break and read a fluffy book. Then I came back and wow, it was like a different book, so much was happening and I was glued to the story. Loved the second half and what's more, made ,e appreciate the first half. It's a great story.

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    3 person found this review helpful

    3 people found this review helpful

    3 of 3 people found this review helpful

  • Boy Swallows Universe is extraordinary.

    A new Australian classic. It reminds me of Tim Winton 's Cloudstreet. The fact that it's based on true events in 80s Brisbane makes it all the more enjoyable and relatable.

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    1 person found this review helpful

    1 people found this review helpful

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful

  • A bit bizarre but you can't put it down

    You will either love or hate it. I loved it. The story was part funny, part horrifying, deep, and at times bizarre!

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    1 person found this review helpful

    1 people found this review helpful

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful

  • Best read for ages!

    I read a lot of books and this is only one of two awesome reads for me this year. It's honesty and depth is so moving. Every scene and innuendo reveals something new throughout the story. Just sooo good.

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    0 person found this review helpful

    0 people found this review helpful

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful

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