Boy Swallows Universe

Trent Dalton, Boy Swallows Universe, $32.99

I admit to nearly abandoning this novel after the first 50 pages, but I persisted and am glad I did so (on the recommendation of the staff at Candelo Books – thanks again!) It is the first book of award-winning journalist Trent Dalton and has been received to wide acclaim.

Set in Brisbane in the 1980s, it is a stark reminder of the corruption, crime and racism that infected Queensland. The story is of two brothers, told through the eyes of the younger one who is in his last years of primary/early high school. The older brother refuses to talk as one reaction to the trauma the boys endured as young children. They continue to live in chaos in a highly dysfunctional family of drug users turned drug  dealers, ex-cons, neighbours who control criminal gangs, school mates who are already acting as stand-over merchants and ‘respectable’ philanthropists who turn out to be murders and torturers.

However black their lives are, there is still overwhelming love between the brothers, and between them and their mother (who spends a stint in jail for drug dealing.) There is also great loyalty to their ex-convict babysitter who teaches the boys about loyalty, friendship and brotherly love.

This is a book that requires quite a bit of work from the reader, but once you are into it, it is quite hard to put down.