RaveThe Guardian (UK)The novel’s overall narrative is written from a variety of perspectives, allowing the story to unfold organically through the insights of the main players ... But what stands out the most is the use of the chorus in chapters told by the town’s children, the collective \'we\' whose voices are conspicuously absent from grown-up conversations, but whose insights provide an unbiased clarity ... The way that Scrivenor explores the bad things that happen to children through their own eyes elevates the entire novel. It’s a literary device that echoes not only the Greek chorus but writers from the contemporary canon, like Jeffrey Eugenides’ adolescent chorus in The Virgin Suicides. Here, it gives Scrivenor the opportunity to show the contradictory experiences and thoughts of children – not the same, but so often swept collectively under the rug ... This excitable chorus, who see everything even before it is revealed through the investigation, are the same and not the same, their experiences shared but different. Their emotional distance from the sometimes harrowing events in the story makes space for the reader’s own emotional response, rather than a prescribed catharsis ... While Esther is an ideal victim, Scrivenor’s suspects are far more complex ... The ending, although slightly too drawn out, asks questions about friendship, family and forgiveness that are deeply discomfiting ... an intelligent novel, one that grapples with complex social and political dynamics, and brings a fresh voice to familiar narratives.
PositiveThe Guardian (UK)\"For the cynical reader, Dalton’s eternal optimism can be over the top and unbelievable. But many will enjoy his writing’s undeniably and unapologetically hopeful take on characters whose lives have very little hope at hand. The characters in All Our Shimmering Skies...are larger than life ...But while the characters in his debut are grounded by the gritty realities of class, the present-day setting of the novel and Dalton’s own experience, in All Our Shimmering Skies many are just out of reach ... Dalton’s insights are best when he writes about class and the damage done by toxic masculinity ... With surprising nuance, Dalton explores the reasons that men inherit patterns of abuse at the same time as he punishes abusers and rewards his male characters who disrupt these behaviours. Perhaps the great appeal of Dalton’s writing is his tendency...to write in flowers and flourishes and to bring characters whose lives might otherwise be small to life in vivid, extraordinary (sometimes unbelievable) detail.
PositiveThe Guardian (UK)The book is carefully constructed and deliberately meta, with the threads of Beckett’s play woven through every element of the narrative ... Although [Thomas\'s] writing isn’t as sparse as Beckett’s script, she limits her plot by allowing it to unfold in the silence of a theatre where its characters are, for the most part, unable to move or speak as the action on stage takes place. But far from being stagnant or dull, the result is an intimately rendered dive into the internal lives of Margo, Ivy and Summer, and the common thread of desperation as they each try to find meaning in their situations, and in the bleak knowledge of the raging bushfires ... Like Winnie’s chatty dialogue onstage, the internal monologues that make up the bulk of the chapters are lively and engaging. It is easy for each of the women, with the reader following close behind, to succumb to each train of thought as it arises, and there are moments where they follow it so deeply that the return to the theatre is a shock – even more so when they discover that Winnie’s dialogue seems to echo their innermost anxieties, as if she has read their mind. Is this the function of art – to speak the essential truths of our existence when we are unable to? ... At times the book does threaten to become too clever, the mechanisms and techniques afforded by its experimental structure sitting a little too close to the surface. Ultimately though, the way Thomas plays with the reader is a sort of genius – as Winnie searches for meaning in Happy Days, Thomas uses her performance to allow Margo, Ivy and Summer to search for meaning (and, in doing so, forces the reader to search for meaning as they read). It is contrived, but thrillingly so .. .a love letter to a play whose absurd tragic reflections of reality continue to resonate with a dying planet full of people trying to figure out what they’re meant to mean.