All Our Shimmering Skies (Trent Dalton, HarperCollins)
Backdropped by the 1942 bombing of Darwin, Trent Dalton’s All Our Shimmering Skies is a macabre, dreamlike fable interrogating greed and intergenerational trauma. At the age of seven, gravedigger girl Molly Hook loses her mother and learns to talk to the sky. Her family is cursed, she’s told. So, at the age of 12, armed with a shovel, the works of Shakespeare and a blood-red stone dug from her mother’s grave, she sets off into the wilderness to change her destiny. In his follow-up to the bestselling Boy Swallows Universe Dalton uses short sentences, vivid poetic imagery and repeated text structures to paint an immersive picture of Molly’s world, one that blends violence with childlike wonder and, as Molly treks deeper into the wild, is filled with an optimism that contrasts with the grim reality of both the war and her upbringing. The unfolding story is engrossing, though some readers might find it a bit slow going at times. For the most part Dalton surrounds Molly with a thoughtful and interesting mix of people, however there is some questionable rendering of the Asian characters in particular. This is a book that mixes magic with reality, resulting in an ethereal family epic that is ultimately hopeful.
Elizabeth Flux is a freelance writer and editor.