The Eye of the Sheep, the second adult book by Sofie Laguna, is the winner of the 2015 Miles Franklin Literary Award. It is a magnificent piece of literary work as was her previous book, One Foot Wrong. When I read the first book I sat for a long time in wondrous adoration at the language and expressive ability of this gifted writer. Right at the beginning of this six part book, I could see why it had won the award.
Jimmy the narrator is six years old when the story begins. He is a child with learning difficulties and small for his age. He is hyperactive and his external mind is limited and so is his expression. But, his internal world of thought and powers of observation, are rich and sharp. It is the internal voice that narrates the story. It is to this voice that readers will offer accolades.
Robby is Jimmy’s older brother. He loves Jimmy but feels resentful because his mother pours all of herself into caring for Jimmy and Robby feels there is nothing left for him. He retreats into silence which is his salvation as it dams up all the churning emotions inside that he must at all cost, keep locked away. His body lives in the house but the rest of him has left his limited life, and gone far away where it beckons his body to join it.
Paula, their asthmatic mother, is physically abused by her drunken husband Gavin who is the end product of a violent and abusive father. She offers herself to him when he’s angry at the fact that he with her, created an imperfect child. This is how she shields her children from any onslaught. She eats cakes and sweets to fill the emptiness created by promises that follow each bashing, that things will change.
These powerful characters and their at times brutal roles weave through themes of family and generational abuse, alcoholism, love and sacrifice. It is in the outstanding climax, when the superb character Liam appears, that we see the effect that abandonment and other mistreatment has on children and how it shapes their lives.
This book has so much in it I feel unable to do justice to such outstanding work. The writing speaks for itself. Sofie Laguna has created a moving book of incredible beauty and substance. It will be thought about and reread many times.
Reviewed by Anastasia Gonis
Title: The Eye of the Sheep
Author: Sofie Laguna
Publisher: Allen & Unwin
Publication Date: 23 July, 2015 $29.99 RRP
Type: Literary Fiction
Type: Literary Fiction