Boy Swallows Universe

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What to expect

The Times

New York Times

Joanna Cannon


Australia, 1983

Life is pretty tough right now for twelve-year-old Eli – what with his mute brother, a convicted murderer for a babysitter, a drug-dealing stepfather, an incarcerated mother and a long-lost father – surely it can’t get any worse?

Think again. He’s about to fall in love, break into prison and cross paths with one of the most notorious criminals Brisbane has ever seen.

A coming-of-age story like no other, Boy Swallows Universe is the most exhilarating novel you’ll read all year.

Critics Review

  • ‘Extraordinary … you will want this’ Joanna Cannon

    ‘Many coming-of-age novels set in the 1980s are little more than a roll-call of pop songs, retro snack foods and chopper bikes. Not this one. This is a proper literary novel about addiction, poverty, parenting and the power of love … Dalton has created an electric novel out of a troubled childhood … it’s a lively, funny affirmation of the human instinct for survival in a hostile environment’ The Times

    ‘Chock full of magic and what it really means to be a good person. The Bell brothers will stay with me for a very long time’ Rachael Brown, Guardian

    ‘Thrilling’ New York Times

    ‘Stellar … makes the typical coming-of-age novel look bland by comparison …This is an outstanding debut’ Publishers Weekly

    ‘Boy Swallows Universe hypnotizes you with wonder, and then hammers you with heartbreak. The events of Eli’s life are often fatal and tragic, but fate and tragedy do not overpower the story. Eli’s remarkably poetic voice and his astonishingly open heart take the day. They enable him to carve out the best of what’s possible from the worst of what is, which is the miracle that makes this novel marvellous’ Washington Post

    ‘Marvellous … filled with beautifully lyric prose … exceptional’ Booklist (Starred Review)

    ‘The best Australian novel I have read in more than a decade’ Sydney Morning Herald

    ‘The most extraordinary writer – a rare talent’ Nikki Gemmell

    ‘Unsuspectedly joyous… sad, warm, witty’ The Australian

    Do you remember what it felt like as a kid when you poured an entire package of Pop Rocks into your mouth and felt them all explode at once? That’s what it feels like to read this astonishing, captivating novel — except more violent and bloody and urgent, and maybe the Pop Rocks are live grenades? … I absolutely loved it. Bravo, Trent Dalton. Thank you for the wild, beautiful, heart-exploding ride. Elizabeth Gilbert

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