TRENT Dalton's Australian literary adventure All Our Shimmering Skies is the magical escape into hope we all needed in 2020.

Life in lockdown, huge job losses, fear and uncertainty, and a shocking global death toll have marred a year that started out offering so much.

But if you think you've had it tough, the story of Molly Hook, the grave digger's daughter, might put it all into perspective.

She's digging graves at 7. She loses her mum. She has a drunk dad and an awful uncle.

And yet she's still looking to the stars for gifts to fall from the heavens.

Brisbane-based Dalton, one of the best writers in Australian journalism, creates the deepest of empathy as he describes in beautiful detail the life of the seven-year-old from the opening pages.

"Molly is the gravedigger girl. She's heard people in town call her that. Poor little gravedigger girl. Mad little gravedigger girl. She leans on her shovel. It has a wooden handle as long as she is tall, with a wide dirt-stained, sheet-steel blade with teeth on its side for root cutting.''

Molly calls the shovel Bert, and tragically, it's her best friend, as she digs 27 graves so far that year.

Back to the present … Trent at home in Brisbane. Picture: Lyndon Mechielsen
Back to the present … Trent at home in Brisbane. Picture: Lyndon Mechielsen


Dalton, the bestselling author of Boy Swallows Universe, which has sold more than 500,000 copies (about 100,000 times more than the humble author thought he would sell), has created what has been well described as a glorious novel destined to become another Australian classic.

Set in Darwin in 1942, the pages are filled with action, adventure, pathos and some of the most brilliant writing you will encounter anywhere.

Dalton's incredible imagination and his ability to convey pure emotion comes to the fore as he tells the story of Molly travelling through the NT, looking for answers and an end to the curse she believes her family is under.

 Molly's unlikely travelling companions, an actress named Greta and Yukio, a fallen Japanese fighter pilot, depth and diversity to the tale as they run through vine forests to wild monsoon lands.

The cover of Trent Dalton’s new book, All our Shimmering Skies.
The cover of Trent Dalton’s new book, All our Shimmering Skies.


Dalton's writing is a masterclass in the use of literary devices, including imagery, symbolism, flashbacks, metaphor, anaphora, alliteration, allegory, to name just a few.

The variety of short, sharp, punchy sentences against flowing descriptions keeps you turning from page to page.

But be warned, it's a book that needs your full attention, so lock yourself away somewhere or find a lonely spot on a beach, a park bench or for full effect a rainfoest.

Boy Swallows Universe best-selling author Trent Dalton.
Boy Swallows Universe best-selling author Trent Dalton.

A story of humanity, and the endless quest for hope for this poor girl, will keep you turning the pages, ever hopeful of a happy ending for young Molly.

In All Our Shimmering Skies, Australia's most likeable writer, has created an anthem of hope for those battling family brokenness, violence, depression, hardship, anxiety and addiction.

If there is one underlying message, it is this. Look up.

Trent Dalton's All Our Shimmering Skies.
Trent Dalton's All Our Shimmering Skies.

Ultimately, it is a story of looking beyond ourselves to to find the beauty in our great big country - from the shimmering rocks in our pristine waterways to the giant sandstone outcrops shadowing our steps.

It's a celebration of our ancient Indigenous culture and the importance of stories and traditions being passed on from generation to generation.

After being captivated all week on Dalton's magic and mystery tour, my only disappointment was that it had to come to an end.

Keep writing Trent Dalton, the world needs you now more than ever.


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