Book Buzz
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About the book | About the author | Advance praise | Video | Hear from the author | A Harper House of Fiction event title | Chapter sampler | Giveaway


The extraordinary coming-of-age novel by one of Australia’s best writers. Boy Swallows Universe will be the most heartbreaking, joyous and exhilarating novel you will read all year.


About the book About the book

Inspired by real-life events of journalist Trent Dalton’s youth, Boy Swallows Universe is set in Brisbane’s violent working-class suburban fringe and tells the story of 12-year-old Eli Bell, who lives a complicated life with a mute brother, a mother in jail, a heroin dealer for a stepfather and a notorious crim for a babysitter. Surrounded by chaos—and with very little moral guidance from the adults around him—Eli sets out on an ambitious suburban odyssey that sees him break into Boggo Road Gaol to rescue his mum, meet the father he doesn’t remember, come face-to-face with the criminals who tore his world apart, and fall in love with the girl of his dreams.

A surprising, funny and tender novel of brotherhood, first love—and the unlikely true story of the formative friendship Dalton shared with Arthur ‘Slim’ Halliday—the greatest escape artist ever confined to Brisbane’s Boggo Road Gaol.


About the author About the author

Trent Dalton is a staff writer for the Weekend Australian Magazine. He’s a two-time winner at the Walkley Awards for Excellence in Journalism, a three-time winner of the Kennedy Award for Excellence in NSW Journalism and a four-time winner of the national News Awards Features Journalist of the Year. Boy Swallows Universe is his first novel.


Advance praise 

‘An astonishing achievement. Dalton is a breath of fresh air—raw, honest, funny, moving, he has created a novel of the most surprising and addictive nature. Unputdownable.’—David Wenham

‘Stunning. My favourite novel for decades. Left me devastated but looking to the heavens.’—Tim Rogers

‘It’s like the kid from the Wonder Years stumbles into a Chopper Read story … Really involving. Really wonderful.’—John Purcell

‘I couldn’t stop reading from the moment I started, and I still can barely speak for the beauty of it. Trent Dalton has done something very special here, writing with grace, from his own broken heart.’—Caroline Overington

‘This novel is a raucous, moving, hilarious triumph—a major new voice on the Australian literary scene has arrived.’—Nikki Gemmell

‘Enthralling—a moving account of sibling solidarity and the dogged pursuit of love.’—Geoffrey Robertson QC

‘An exhilarating and totally original piece of writing… [Boy Swallows Universe] is so full of the heart and soul of the writer. And apart from anything else, Trent’s a fabulous wordsmith, and judge of narrative pace.’—David Gaunt, Gleebooks

Boy Swallows Universe is a truly tremendous read that is written using wonderful “magical realism” imagery versus stark reality narratives, with bonkers Queensland characters and the very best sibling relationship of all time. It is impossible to not love this yarn, and to not feel some sadness, relief and yearning. I’m all in.’—Chris Gordon, Readings

‘Wow!!!! What an amazing book! I can see why everyone is raving—it really is an exceptional standout book.’—Dean Allan, Better Read Than Dead

Boy Swallows Universe is a warm, wonderful, crazy novel that is surely a contender for the Miles Franklin award. I’m very keen to read more fiction from the extremely talented Trent Dalton.’—Karen Ferris, Harry Hartog


The novel HarperCollins staff have fallen in love with


Trent Dalton on why he wrote Boy Swallows Universe

The book took me a year to write between the hours of 8pm and 10pm after work, and it took my whole life to write. The research was really remembrance. Remembering all those years when the world around my small family crumbled. When people we loved were being taken away. When things we thought true were being turned false. Heads were being slammed into fibro walls. Dangerous people were knocking on doors in the daytime. And then that world of ours crumbled—the world of prisons and small-time suburban crime—and my brothers and I went to live with my father, who I never knew, in a Brisbane housing commission swirling with alcoholism, unemployment, domestic violence, generational social curses—all of which I would later write about as a journalist.

All of me is in here. Everything I’ve ever seen. Everything I’ve ever done. Every girl I ever kissed on a wagged school day, every punch I ever threw, every tooth I ever lost in a housing commission street scrap and every flawed, conflicted, sometimes even dangerous, Queenslander I’ve ever come across, as the son of two of the most incredible and beautiful and sometimes troubled parents a kid could ever be born to.

All I think I’ve done as a journalist over 17 years, if I’m being really honest with myself, is process all the baggage of my life through the stories of thousands of Australians, who’ve told me their deepest, darkest secrets in the sacred spaces of their living rooms, and I take these secrets and turn them as respectfully as possible into magazine stories, and these stories have helped me learn and know and sometimes even heal … Boy Swallows Universe is me taking all my own secrets this time and turning them, as respectfully as possible, into a novel.

This book is for the never-believers and the believers and the dreamers. This book is for anyone around the world who has been 13 years old. 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:

1. Every lost soul can be found again. Fates can be changed. Bad can become good.

2. True love conquers all.

3. There is a fine line between magic and madness, and all should be encouraged in moderation.

4. Australian suburbia is a dark and brutal place.

5. Australian suburbia is a beautiful and magical place.

6. Home is always the first and final poem.


A Harper House of Fiction event title

  • Two rounds of early reading copies widely distributed to booksellers, media, festivals and key influencers to build significant pre-publication buzz.
  • Pre-publication bookseller visits and appearances, and a feature at HarperCollins Literary Bites event live-streamed on Facebook.
  • Incredible point-of-sale materials including window display packs with posters, banners, bookmarks and shelf-talkers.
  • High-profile media campaign kicking off with Trent telling the story of his extraordinary childhood on Conversations with Richard Fidler.
  • Guaranteed huge print coverage and several high-profile interviews on ABC RN, ABC Local and top-rating commercial radio stations including 2GB and 4BC.
  • Creative print and digital marketing campaign.
  • Outdoor advertising.
  • Better Reading campaign across several weeks to their 130k+ followers.
  • NetGalley and Goodreads campaigns to ensure lots of early reviews online prior to publication.
  • Book trailer with social advertising support.
  • Suite of digital and social assets available for all retailers.
  • Books on the Rail and consumer sampling campaigns to drive word of mouth on publication.
  • Major touring schedule with author events in Brisbane, Sydney and Melbourne.
  • Festival appearances around the country in 2018 and 2019.


Chapter sampler

Click here to start reading a sampler of Boy Swallows Universe.


Be one of the first to read this new Australian classic

For your chance to receive one of 10 reading copies of Boy Swallows Universe, email, with ‘Boy Swallows Universe giveaway’ in the subject line. The first 10 people to respond will win a copy.





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