Book review by Cheryl Thompson – Lola in the Mirror


Lola in the mirror written by Trent Dalton


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Lola in the Mirror is the new work of fiction from Trent Dalton, the Australian award-winning journalist and bestselling author of Boy Swallows Universe, All Our Shimmering Skies, and Love Stories, a non-fiction collection.

Set in Brisbane, Lola covers themes of homelessness, domestic violence, isolation, addiction, friendship, love, loss, and belonging. The author has said that this latest novel was inspired by his 17 years of social affairs journalism, and that “it’s an extremely current story about a country neck-deep in a national housing crisis.”

The book’s central character is a homeless, nameless teenage girl who is living inside a van with four flat tyres parked in a scrapyard by the edge of the Brisbane River with her mother.

She is nameless because they have been on the run for sixteen years, moving from place to place around the country, hiding from police.

Names are dangerous for girls on the lam. Names could get you busted on the run. If Mum ever blabbed my real name to me, and then I blabbed my real name to someone, and then someone blabbed to the wrong someone else, then my mysterious ol’ mum could go to jail for what she did to my dad.”

Mostly she is called the “the girl in the van” or “the runaway girl” or “the kid with no name in the van”.

However, the nameless girl has a talent, and she has a dream – a dream of becoming acknowledged as an artist of international acclaim. Each section of the book features an illustration by the girl* that is significant to the story.

The girl also dreams of living her life boldly, far away from the dangerous and controlling underworld drug queen Flora Box and her son Brandon. She wants to cartwheel through life, not merely walk through it. She dreams of a life of love with the boy she meets who truly sees her – to him she is not invisible as she is to the rest of society.

This story contains mystery, drama, crime, murder, romance, and so much more. I thoroughly loved Lola in the Mirror. For me it was moving, relevant, magical, and unputdownable.

I am a fan of Trent Dalton’s writing, having read and thoroughly enjoyed each of his previous books, and for me this is his best work yet. I know that Lola has its detractors and that there have been some very critical reviews written, but I would highly recommend it to other fans of Trent Dalton’s books, or anyone interested in current societal issues.

*the actual artist is Paul Heppell.

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