TV & Film

Boy Swallows Universe is headed to our screens: Here’s everything we know

Australia's fastest-selling debut novel is coming to Netflix.

When Trent Dalton wrote Boy Swallows Universe, he expected five people to read it – his mum, his wife, and his three older brothers. While the literary author was content with this level of readership, his expectations were overwhelmingly succeeded.

The debut novel received wild critical and commercial success with over 745,000 copies sold, including 100,000 overseas. Now, Australia’s fastest-selling debut has been adapted into a Netflix series. 

The first teaser dropped at the beginning of November 2023. No words were spoken, but viewers caught glimpses of familiar themes from the book – a red phone, prison, ambulances, and violence – set in 1980s Brisbane.

“Crime, drugs, danger and a whole lotta hope,” reads the Netflix synopsis. “Adapted from Trent Dalton’s iconic novel, Boy Swallows Universe is the story of a boy doing his best to hold his fractured family together.” 

When is Boy Swallows Universe coming to Netflix?

There is no official date yet, but watch this space.

A first look of Netflix’s Boy Swallows Universe.

Who is starring in Boy Swallows Universe?

The Netflix series is fronted by a star-studded Australian cast, including Simon Baker as Robert Bell, Phoebe Tonkin as Frances Bell, and Travis Fimmel as Lyle Orlik.

Young emerging actor Felix Cameron plays protagonist Eli Bell.

Other names include Adam Briggs, Sophie Wilde, Deborah Mailman, Lee Halley, Eloise Rothfield, Zachary Wan, Millie Donaldson, Bryan Browne, Anthony LaPaglia, Christopher James Baker, and Haiha Lee.

What is Boy Swallows Universe about?

Boy Swallows Universe follows 12-year-old boy Eli. His father is lost, his brother is mute, his mother is in prison, his stepfather is a heroin dealer, and his babysitter is a notorious crim. As he is navigating life and falling in love, Eli finds obstacles at every turn. It’s a story that is based on Trent Dalton’s childhood.

“I’m a journalist who has written thousands of words about the most harrowing stories about Australian life in the suburbs,” he wrote for HarperCollins in 2016. “My own mother’s life story remains the most harrowing story I’ve ever had the strange and often unsettling honour of being a significant part of.”

The novel has been critically-acclaimed.

The novel, he says, doesn’t cover “a tenth” of what his mother has been through. But the key characters draw on the people he loves most in the world. 

“All of me is in here,” Trent wrote. “Everything I’ve ever seen. Everything I’ve ever done. Every girl I ever kissed on a wagged school day, every punch I ever threw, every tooth I ever lost in a Housing Commission street scrap and every flawed, conflicted, sometimes even dangerous Queenslander I’ve ever come across, as the son of two of the most incredible and beautiful and sometimes troubled parents a kid could ever be born to.”

Above all else, Boy Swallows Universe is about love and “how it is possible to love someone who has hurt you deeply. How love is the closest thing we have to the truly profound.” 

Where can I buy Boy Swallows Universe? 

You can buy the critically-acclaimed novel from Booktopia, for $20.35. 

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