As Japanese bombs rain down on her hometown, newly orphaned Molly Hook sets out to find Longcoat Bob, the deep-country sorcerer whom she believes cursed her family. Accompanying her are Greta, a razor-tongued actress, and Yukio, a Japanese fighter pilot who's abandoned his post. With messages from the skies above to guide them, the trio will encounter the beauty and vastness of the Northern Territory and survive in ways they never thought possible.
All Our Shimmering Skies is a semi historical drama and an intense cultural immersion that is wrapped in the magic of a vastly untouched landscape wherein love and hope remain front and centre. Dalton’s writing is simply sublime and whilst the harsh brutality of the era was challenging to stomach from time to time, his storytelling and characterisation were masterful. From our fearless heroine Molly, to our presumed Japanese enemy Yukio, the beauty and yet dark desperation within each is made all the more profound given the sheer tenacity and grit each character displays. And whilst a little further light and humour was needed to meter the inherent darkness and fear of what we know is coming, love grows in the most unlikely of places and becomes the unyielding torch that helps guide their way. Undoubtedly, this is not a soft or gentle read and definitely not for the faint hearted. However, for those who love incredible storytelling, brilliant characters, creative context and powerful themes based on love and hope, I highly recommend you set aside some time to dig into this one shovel first.
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.
... a harsh and magical novel ... their journey takes on mythic proportions ... goodness, hope, and a bit of magic are pitted against gritty realities. The result is unquestionably appealing, though somewhat diminished by a number of characters who seem like period movie clichés.