LOLA IN THE MIRROR, by Trent Dalton

LOLA IN THE MIRROR, by Trent Dalton

Australian journalist and author Trent Dalton is best known for his semi-autobiographical novel Boy Swallows Universe (now also a tv series on Netflix). Just like the novel’s main character Eli Bell, Dalton grew up in Brisbane in a loving but crumbling family with a junkie mother and a drug-dealing stepfather. By giving Eli a savviness that the author as a young boy never had, he created a universal story of hope.


In Lola in the Mirror, Trent Dalton dives into the Brisbane underworld again. This time the main character is a nameless seventeen-year-old girl who lives with her mother in a van in a riverside scrapyard. They’ve been on the run for sixteen years and the girl has no name, because names are dangerous when you are on the ‘lam’. The girl has artistic ambitions, but the underworld drug queen Flora Box, for whom she works as a drug courier, has a firm hold on her. This fast-moving story is funny and sad and violent, but not all at the same time. But it is also like a fairy tale with the metaphorical (Brisbane) river, the girl’s obsession with the meaning of names and the symbolic mirror in her scrapyard.


Trent Dalton is a journalist and even with his fiction he wants to expose a part of society that is unfamiliar to most readers. In Lola in the Mirror, he shines a light on the 120,000 houseless people in Australia, 12,000 of them in Brisbane alone. He wants the readers to care and really ‘see’ the houseless people who are not as lucky as the other ‘eight billion idiots moving blissfully through the world, not realising [that they’re] all just one tiny little event away from living in a van by the river.’ Some critics have accused Dalton of glossing over poverty. But Trent Dalton does not want us to look away from poverty and addiction, he simply wants us to see that they are not the only things that define people. And that is why Lola in the Mirror is an important, and thankfully a beautiful book.



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