Dalton’s insights are best when he writes about class and the damage done by toxic masculinity. Molly is believably isolated in the world because she comes from the kind of family the world prefers not to see: poor, mentally ill and suffering various addictions. Aubrey and Horace Hook are written with generous insights into their own abusive upbringing, without excusing their behaviour or the myriad ways they have failed Greta, Molly and her mother. 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, like Eli, to write in flowers and flourishes and to bring characters whose lives might otherwise be small to life in vivid, extraordinary (sometimes unbelievable) detail.