Darwin, 1942: As Japanese bombs rain down, motherless Molly Hook, the gravedigger’s daughter, is looking to the skies and running for her life. Inside a duffel bag she carries a stone heart, alongside a map to lead her to Longcoat Bob, the deep-country sorcerer who she believes put a curse on her family. By her side are the most unlikely travelling companions: Greta, a razor-tongued actress, and Yukio, a fallen Japanese fighter pilot. The treasure lies before them, but close behind them trails the dark. And above them, always, are the shimmering skies.
It’s been two years since Trent Dalton’s debut novel, Boy Swallows Universe, hit the shelves and took Australia by storm. It was an instant hit, winning a slew of awards including the People’s Choice Award at the 2019 NSW Premier’s Literary Awards and a record four ABIA awards, including the prestigious Book of the Year Award. The novel broke Nielsen Bookscan records to become Australia’s fastest selling fiction debut ever, with an astonishing 500,000 copies sold in Australia alone. It has also been embraced by readers overseas, with rights sold to 34 English language and translation territories. Screen and theatre adaptations are also underway.
Now, Dalton returns with his highly anticipated second novel, All Our Shimmering Skies, a glorious book destined to become yet another Australian classic, and I think it’s safe to say, we’ve all been eagerly waiting to get our hands on this one.
All Our Shimmering Skies is a story about gifts that fall from the sky, curses we dig from the earth and the secrets we bury inside ourselves. It is an odyssey of true love and grave danger, of darkness and light, of bones and blue skies. It is a love letter to Australia and an ode to the art of looking up – a buoyant, beautiful and magical novel, abrim with warmth, wit and wonder.
At a HarperCollins booksellers event, Dalton spoke about how the novel was heavily influenced by his own travels through the Northern Territory, and this is certainly evident when reading All Our Shimmering Skies; The Australian landscape looms large here, taking on a wild, magical quality that is both familiar and otherworldly all at once.
Set against this nostalgic and fantastically imagined backdrop are a colourful cast of characters who are each engaging, vividly drawn, and a genuine pleasure to follow. Of these characters, the poor little gravedigger girl, Molly Hook, stands front and centre. Molly – who was inspired by Dalton’s own two daughters – is a brave, thoughtful and unforgettable heroine, and you’re sure to fall in love with her. I know I did.
Richly imagined, entrancing and impossible to put down, All Our Shimmering Skies is yet another literary triumph from Trent Dalton and confirms his position as one of Australia’s finest writers.