I can’t even believe it myself but I read TEN novels this month! Of course I couldn’t do long-form “reviews” of every single one that would be incredibly self indulgent… so instead I thought I would do a few long-ish reviews of my 5 star books of the month (I’ll try to make them all a little different to avoid redundancy) – I had three that fit the bill but I’ll start with the one that kicked off my month with a resounding bang:
Boy Swallows Universe by: Trent Dalton
I started the month with this novel – in fact I started it just slightly before and was done it by November 1, but I still counted it!
This novel, although I had read good things and it was getting high praise, was so much better than I ever could have expected.
It follows the story of Eli and his mute, savant brother August in Australia during the 1980’s. It took me a moment to get my bearings on some of the nuances of Australian “lingo” but once I did I got absolutely consumed by this story. I remember getting a few chapters in and thinking “ok, I’ve bought into this story and the characters but I have no idea where he’s taking me with this”…and then he flipped it on it’s head in a way I did not at all see coming and I was hooked from there on.
Coming of age stories have always held a special place in my heart simply because I feel like it gives me the lens into how different every single person’s upbringing is and how those differences result in completely unique individuals. This story in particular was at times harrowing and I found it to be a true testament to the strength of the human spirit as well as the strength of brotherhood despite extreme setbacks and struggles. Trent Dalton expertly manoeuvres through these major life disruptions as though a part of him lived this story – which is why it didn’t surprise me at all to read that he himself describes the novel as being a 50/50 split between truth & fantasy.
I was left truly shaken and ultimately it altered my mind. I can tell when a book has impacted me deeply when I cannot stop talking about it – and I have not stopped talking about this novel since the second I put it down. I’ll definitely say that this is not a simple, light story and it absolutely requires an open mind because it tiptoes through some big ideas and led my mind down some true existential mazes (which I love). I don’t like giving away anything when I give summaries because (especially with anything I loved this much) I want people to read them for themselves and this is truly one you need to read to understand, which, duh, is the point of good writing!
I felt like I was reading an autobiography with a hint of fantasy, a real thread of thriller/suspense while also managing to bring though a love story. A love story between brothers, between a son and his mother, between a boy and a woman. In fact, now that I think about it, the whole story was about love.
“I have a forgiveness weakness in me that I hate because it means I’d probably forgive the man who removed my heart with a blunt knife if he said he needed it more than me.”
“It’s about the ups and downs of life. The downside is life is short and has to end. The upside is it comes with bread, wine and books.”
“Most things people say don’t need to be said.” […] “Maybe we’d all be better communicators if we just shut up more”
Not actually in the novel but from Trent Dalton, the author, himself:
“This book is for a generation of Australians who were promised by their parents they would be told all the answers as soon as they were old enough. Well, now you’re old enough. Here are my answers:
Every lost soul can be found again. Fates can be changed. Bad can become good.
True love conquers all.
There is a fine line between magic and madness and all should be encouraged in moderation.
Australian suburbia is a dark and brutal place.
Australian suburbia is a beautiful and magical place.
There’s a concept that gets unraveled while reading about how Eli approaches his life by looking for his ‘stone in the water’ moments. He looks for that moment in time in history that broke the surface and generated ripples and through those ripples it somehow leads him to where he is now. It was an incredibly profound concept to me because I feel as though I’m very similar. I like knowing the root origination of what has made me who I am – whether or not those stones in the water were even a part of my life or were a part of my parents or grandparents etc. It really put words to how I like to approach self-discovery and understanding which I was very appreciative of!
Anyways, I loved it, won’t stop talking about it, you should read it!