Boy Swallows Universe by Trent Dalton

1. First lines. 2. Publisher: Harper Collins 3. Boggo Road Jail, Brisbane (public domain image)
I really liked this book.
Hopefulness in seemingly hopeless situations; humour in tragic circumstances; morality and virtue among criminal acts; love of family in a world of indifference and sorrow. An uplifting read.

Quotes from the book:

  • “If there were some version of luminol, the stuff they use to find blood at crime scenes, to detect the presence of grief, half the people we pass on the street would light up like Christmas trees.”
  • “Lyle says he approaches a drug deal in the same way he approaches Mum when she’s in a bad mood. Stay on your toes. Stay alert. Don’t let them stand too close to the kitchen knives. Be flexible, patient, adaptable. The buyer/angry Mum is always right.”

Plot summary:

Ten year-old Levi lives with his older brother Gus, and his mother Frankie and her partner Lyle, who are drug-dealers. It’s 1983, and they live in the outer suburb of Darra in Brisbane. Levi’s world falls apart when Lyle disappears, Frankie is imprisoned in Boggo Road Jail, and he and Gus go to live with their father at Brackenridge. He dreams of becoming a journalist at the Brisbane Courier Mail, and living with his family in better circumstances.

Other editions:

Read a sample online at Harper Collins


  • “A rollicking ride, rich in philosophy, wit, truth and pathos.” Full review: The Sydney Morning Herald
  • Boy Swallows Universe is well worth reading for its exploration of human nature, with all of its complexity and hypocrisy, its unique voice, its portrayal of love and loyalty, and its tense and satisfying ending.” Full review: Readability

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