All Our Shimmering Skies by Trent Dalton
Set in the Northern Territory in Australia during the Second World War, I was expecting to read about the Japanese bombing of Darwin. And yes, this book does include the bombing, but All Our Shimmering Skies is so much more than this event in history. This is a larger than life read, an epic journey that Molly Hook, the gravedigger’s daughter, goes on. Her mother is already dead, and her father is killed when the Japanese attack. So Molly runs for her life as bombs fall on Darwin, carrying a duffel bag with a stone heart and a map that she hopes will lead her to Longcoat Bob. She has been told that he has put a curse on her family, and she wants him to reverse the curse.
Molly is joined on her journey by two unlikely companions. Beautiful, feisty, Greta, an actress with grand dreams, but who has been ground down by Molly’s uncle and his fists. And Yukio, a Japanese pilot who has parachuted into the outback, who desperately misses his deceased wife. He forms a connection with Molly and Greta, even though he doesn’t speak English and he is the ‘enemy.’ Their journey is fraught with danger, but even more so when they find that Molly’s uncle is still alive and driven by gold-lust to follow them.
All Our Shimmering Skies is preoccupied with death, but despite that, it’s a lyrical, beautiful, surprising read that has moments of loveliness in the midst of the misery. This is a novel that is magical and full of metaphor but also grounded in reality and the harsh Australian outback. It’s eloquently written, and I really enjoyed the relationship between Molly and showgirl Greta; these fabulous, strong female protagonists still live on in my mind after closing the final page. And always, always, Molly looks up to the shimmering skies that dominate this novel.
Reviewer: Karen McMillan
HarperCollins, RRP $34.99