peteg's blog - noise - books - 2021 12 19 TrentDalton AllOurShimmeringSkies

Trent Dalton: All Our Shimmering Skies. (2020)

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Kindle. Dalton's 2020 followup to Boy Swallows Universe. Initially it's 1936 in Darwin and soon enough 1942 in the larger Top End (circa the Rum Jungle). There's a bit of Xavier Herbert's Capricornia in the air as overly determined romantic triangles yield to generational grudges. It was news to me that Chinese built the old railway from Darwin to Birdum, though this is unsurprising given the similar work they did in California. The Japanese arrive in force; Dalton has the war-resistant Yukio play Paul Hogan with that's-not-a-knife-this-is-a-short-sword moves that ultimately dispose of an entire Australian tin mining utopia. Was he taking an oblique dig at Clive Palmer? We get told about the fascinating behaviour of the green tree ants (that I finally saw in Townsville) in a way far short of Werner Herzog and Mark Moffett. For all I know and intuit I felt that having the Aborigines find and accumulate gold over centuries to be a mistake. I wanted more of Sam Greenway. The quest to find Longcoat Bob was poorly motivated, but that was in keeping with gravedigger girl Molly Hook's coming of age.

He should've written the script for Australia.

Bec Kavanagh. Yes, he's good at working the children's point of view (a lesson well learnt by Omar El Akkad). She wanted the magic realism to be bounded but Dalton knows it must be limitless. I concur that the secondary characters are underbaked, but could he have got there without writing another Poor Fellow My Country and would it have said anything more or new? Goodreads splits into those who enjoy Dalton's schtick and can indulge his flaws, and those who can't.