All Our Shimmering Skies
Publisher: 28th September 2020 by HarperCollins Publishers Australia
Pages: 430 pages
How I Read It: ARC book
Genre: contemporary, cultural Australia
My Rating: 5 cups
The bestselling author of Boy Swallows Universe, Trent Dalton returns with All Our Shimmering Skies - a glorious novel destined to become another Australian classic. Darwin, 1942, and as Japanese bombs rain down, motherless Molly Hook, the gravedigger's daughter, turns once again to the sky for guidance. She carries a stone heart inside a duffel bag next to the map that leads to Longcoat Bob, the deep-country sorcerer who put a curse on her family. By her side are the most unlikely travelling companions: Greta, a razor-tongued actress and Yukio, a fallen Japanese fighter pilot. Run, Molly, run, says the daytime sky. Run to the vine forests. Run to northern Australia's wild and magical monsoon lands. Run to friendship. Run to love. Run. Because the graverobber's coming, Molly, and the night-time sky is coming with him. So run, Molly, run.
All Our Shimmering Skies is a story about gifts that fall from the sky, curses we dig from the earth and the secrets we bury inside ourselves. It is an odyssey of true love and grave danger, of darkness and light, of bones and blue skies; a buoyant, beautiful and magical novel abrim with warmth, wit and wonder; and a love letter to Australia and the art of looking up.
Trent Dalton became Australian writing royalty after one book! I did not read that book (Boy Swallows Universe) but understood there would be immense pressure to maintain a certain level of success second time round. I have just closed the final page on his new release, All Our Shimmering Skies and have to say, I think he has done it. With nothing to compare it to, I am critiquing what is before me and quite frankly, it is immense .... it is another breathtaking odyssey.
‘You ever wonder why things are the way they are, Greta?’ she whispers. ‘What if this feller was supposed to be right here on this leaf in this very moment? What if he was put here to remind you and me about something.’ ‘Like what?’ Greta asks. ‘Like how pretty it all really is,’ Molly replies. ‘Who decided that gold would be worth so much, anyway? I’d take this feller over a gold pebble any day of the week.’
At face value this is the story of a young girl who is lost in its many variations. She digs graves with a shovel for a best friend. She talks to the sky. She runs aways from Darwin under assault from the Japanese and begins an epic journey deep into the Northern Territory in 1942 with Greta, a sassy actress and Yukio, a fallen Japanese pilot.
Yet .... this story is so much more .... so much more than that.
Trent Dalton is an amazing writer. Suspend all you know, all you understand of what writing should look like and immerse yourself in how writing can be. From Aussie humour and slang, to the horrifying and confronting details with the impact in the bombing of Darwin - he does it all, he blends it altogether in one amazing read. This book is atmospheric in its detail of Australia’s desert landscape and his writing is pure poetry for the soul. It is lyrical as passage after passage just oozes with life. It is heartfelt, it is rich, it is heartbreaking and it is, simply stunning.
‘It means we must face the truth of who we are, Uncle Aubrey,’ she says. ‘Everything you have ever done and everything you will ever do ... you must own it. Because you are those things. You carry those things with you.’
What the reader must do is put aside what you think you know about writing and what you think you know about Trent’s writing. Take this fantastical journey with Molly, the little gravedigger girl as she embarks on a life changing journey into the great unknown. Full of melodrama and magical realism I promise it will be memorable - you will smile, you will laugh, you will shed a tear and as my first Trent Dalton read, I can say my heart has been truly touched by his poetic prose.
‘Because sadness is the truest emotion,’ Greta says. ‘Happiness isn’t to be trusted. It’s a bald-faced liar. But the truth of your sadness enriches every other thing inside you, especially your joy. You shouldn’t be afraid to go to the place that makes you sad, Molly Hook. The more you go to that dark place inside you, the lighter it gets. You go there enough times, you realise that dark place is actually your sacred place. That place is all of you and the tears you take from that place are just the darkness leaking out, precious drop by precious drop. You following me?’
This review is based on a complimentary copy from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. The quoted material may have changed in the final release.