Tag Archives: miles franklin award

The Eye of the Sheep

Literary fiction about an ordinary yet dysfunctional family told from the perspective of a differently-abled boy. 

Content warning: disability, chronic illness, domestic violence

Last year I saw Sofie Laguna speak about her new book “The Choke”, and it was one of the most fast-paced and scintillating author talks I’ve ever been to. Although I was really interested in buying a copy of her newer book, I really wanted to get my hands on a copy of her previous novel that won the Miles Franklin Award in 2015. In the end, that was the one I bought and got signed.

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“The Eye of the Sheep” by Sofie Laguna is a literary novel told from the perspective of a neurodiverse young boy. Jimmy’s family are like other families. He has a mum, a dad and a brother. His dad works in a refinery, his mum stays home and looks after the family. However, Jimmy isn’t like other children. His mind is too quick in some ways and too slow in others, and he sees the world in a very unique way. As his family’s limited emotional and financial resources are stretched to the limit, the tension threatens to tear Jimmy’s life apart.

This is a spectacular novel that you need to throw yourself into headlong and let it cover you completely. Laguna takes the banal and makes it mesmirising. Writing a story through the eyes of Jimmy was ambitious, but Laguna does so convincingly and evocatively. I really liked how Jimmy ages through the story and finds that the world beyond his mother’s cloying arms is neither as understanding nor as undemanding.

Laguna also uses Jimmy’s observations to tackle some very difficult themes. I think one of the most challenging parts of this book is Paula, Jimmy’s mother, and the increasing toll her weight, her asthma and domestic violence takes on her. Jimmy’s naive understanding of what is happening in his family is contrasted against his brother’s increasingly verbal and violent protests against his father’s violence. Where Jimmy thinks about the things his mother could do to mitigate his father’s anger, I found myself wondering at why this family that does so much better apart tries so hard to stay together. Laguna explores the theme of fighting to breathe over and over again, throwing each family member’s sense of being trapped in stark relief.

I could go into more detail about this book but I think this is the kind of story you just have to wade into and experience for yourself. It was definitely no mistake this book won the Miles Franklin, and I am very eager to read more of Laguna’s work.

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The Eye of the Sheep

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Filed under Australian Books, General Fiction, Uncategorized

Black Rock White City

The first thing to say about this book is that it was the winner of the 2016 Miles Franklin Literary Award, Australia’s most prestigious literary award. After reading some real disappointers in one of my several bookclubs, I decided to nominate a set book that came with a recommendation.

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“Black Rock White City” by A. S. Patrić is about a Serbian refugee named Jovan who is trying to rebuild his life in Australia with his wife Suzana. Working as a cleaner at a hospital in Frankston, Jovan finds himself responsible for cleaning up increasingly disturbing graffiti. Meanwhile, his shared trauma with his wife is carving a chasm between them that’s growing harder and harder to bridge. 

This book is exquisitely written. Full of beautiful imagery and observation, Patrić’s debut novel captures the internal struggles of mental health, being a migrant in Australia and, even more topically, being a refugee. This is a book of poetry and explores the effect of words we use (and misuse) on others around us. I really liked the characters in this book, especially Suzana who bravely and unapologetically calls out the things that others let slide. After finishing this book, I’ve been thinking about it for the last day – still trying to unpack it all. 

A meditative book with a dark streak, you  won’t want to rush this one, but you will definitely want to read it. 

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Filed under Australian Books, General Fiction