A critique of Trent Dalton’s novels by Catriona Menzies-Pike

23 May 2022

An in-depth look at the writing of Brisbane based Australian author Trent Dalton, in particular his two bestsellers Boy Swallows Universe, and All Our Shimmering Skies, by Catriona Menzies-Pike, editor of the Sydney Review of Books.

If Dalton’s prose style skims the surfaces of his characters’ lives, so does his thinking about the moral and political world. Dalton infantilises his audience by feeding them palatable maxims about history, society and human flourishing. The themes are repeated again and again in case the rowdy kids up the back aren’t paying attention.

It’s a longer read, but well worth the time. It seems to me effectively critiquing a work of fiction — as is writing a good novel in the first place — is an art form in itself. Many of the book reviews I read — and, doubtless — write myself, essentially summarise the plot and include a few words as to the merit or otherwise of the title. There’s nothing wrong with that, when choosing what to read next I often quickly look for a consensus, before deciding what to do.

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