Boy Swallows Universe by Trent Dalton · Book review

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⚠️ This review contains spoilers!

Listened to the audiobook version, well narrated.

A very "Aussie" coming-of-age story, set in 1980s Brisbane, filled with a bunch of colourful characters - Vietnamese drug dealers, a bikie gang member, and real-life Slim Halliday ("The Houdini of Boggo Road") who escaped twice from a Brisbane jail. What makes it all the more amazing is the book is partially based on the author's own childhood (Slim was once his babysitter, and his dad really did spend his days living as a chain-smoking recluse who read books all day).

One of the major themes of the book is what makes someone a "good man". The main character Eli is trying to figure out if he is a good man, as well as if the people around him (who have criminal backgrounds) are also good men. It's interesting that people like convicted felon Slim and bikie gang member Alex are portrayed in that "good man" light even after their past misdeeds, but someone like Teddy is "bad" once their bad deeds are uncovered. Maybe would have been cool to get that redemption, but also highlights Eli's potential naivety / young age throughout most of the book.

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