All The Books I Can Read

1 girl….2 many books!

Review: The Eye Of The Sheep by Sofie Laguna

on August 11, 2017

The Eye Of The Sheep
Sofie Laguna
Allen & Unwin
2015, 308p
Purchased personal copy

Blurb {from the publisher/Goodreads.com}:

“Ned was beside me, his messages running easily through him, with space between each one, coming through him like water. He was the go-between, going between the animal kingdom and this one. I watched the waves as they rolled and crashed towards us, one after another, never stopping, always changing. I knew what was making them come, I had been there and I would always know.”

Meet Jimmy Flick. He’s not like other kids. He finds a lot of the adult world impossible to understand – especially why his Dad gets so angry with him. Jimmy’s mother Paula is the only one who can manage him. She teaches him how to count sheep so that he can fall sleep. She holds him tight enough to stop his cells spinning. It is only Paula who can keep Jimmy out of his father’s way. But when Jimmy’s world falls apart, he has no one else to turn to. He alone has to navigate the unfathomable world and make things right.

Sofie Laguna’s first novel, One Foot Wrong received rave reviews, sold all over the world and was longlisted for both the Miles Franklin and Prime Minister’s Awards. In The Eye of the Sheep, her great originality and talent will again amaze and move readers. In the tradition of Room and The Lovely Bones, here is a surprising and brilliant novel from one of our finest writers.

Usually I have a disinterested relationship with prize winners. There’s been very few that I’ve read and really loved but I had heard so many good things about this book from so many different corners and the cover was so lovely that I decided that I absolutely had to give it a go. It appears that August is the month of reading books that have been on my TBR shelf for some time. I chucked this in the car and read it a few chapters at a time at school pick up. My kids’ school is super busy and if you want a good park you’d better get there 30-40m before school even ends. That’s perfect because it gives me some good reading time (and some amusement watching people attempt to reverse park). This is definitely a book to challenge that distant relationship.

Jimmy Flick is definitely an unusual sort of child. He doesn’t really read social cues, he has trouble expressing his emotions adequately and reading tense situations and he tends to kind of explode when he can’t really process what is happening. His father Gavin works in Altona at some sort of plant and doesn’t really possess the patience to cope with Jimmy’s differences. Frustrated with aspects of his life, Gav often seeks solace in the bottle. Days his dad drinks beer aren’t too bad but Jimmy and his brother Ned know that when their dad reaches for the Cutty Sark in the cupboard, it’s going to be a bad night and they’re best to make themselves scarce. Because the narrative is Jimmy’s and he’s a 6yo child with learning and processing difficulties, he’s not really aware of what is happening between his mother and his father after his father has been at the bottle too much. His innocence of the situation makes it all the more hard to read.

Everything that happens in this book is told through Jimmy’s eyes. He provides the insight into his parent’s marriage, his father’s struggles, particularly after losing his job and the tension in the family as his older brother Ned grows bigger and stronger and less tolerant of Gav’s ways after being at the bottle. But it isn’t until something terrible happens to Jimmy that the entire family dynamics alter drastically and Jimmy and his mother are left on their own. His mother is unwell (chronic asthma) and is also floundering with the decisions she has made. Her illness is getting worse but so is her ability to cope with it and she withdraws, keeping her and Jimmy isolated from the world with some devastating consequences.

This book broke my heart in so many ways. Jimmy’s childlike (well he is a child, but his narrative reads younger and less aware than a child of his age, as he grows in the novel) makes everything so heightened, be it his father’s alcoholism, his mother’s illness and the terribleness that comes after. Jimmy is so beautifully portrayed – his innocence, his struggles to deal with things like school and even tense situations at home and the methods Paula (his mother) has developed for coping with his outbursts and for calming him down. Her devotion to Jimmy is never ending and he is the catalyst for a decision that changes everything.

Despite his difficulties…or perhaps because of them? Jimmy is such a brave character. It doesn’t appear that he really processes danger or difficult situations and because of this he can be easily manipulated but he also throws himself into things anticipating the reward at the end. Jimmy’s journey is truly devastating at times, he loses so much and his ability to express how he feels is severely stunted so no one around him is really grasping the severity of his situation (or they don’t care, which in some cases, is also quite possible). This book made me feel so much – I was so sad for Jimmy and at times it also made me blisteringly angry for him as well.

The writing is beautiful and clever – it takes a little while to get used to being in Jimmy’s head (perhaps a bit longer for me because I was reading this in snatches every day) but once you settle into the rhythm it’s such a genuine voice and it enhances the story incredibly. Sofie Laguna has a new book due out next month and after this, it’s a must read for me.

8/10

Book #133 of 2017

The Eye Of The Sheep is book #43 of the Australian Women Writers Challenge 2017

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4 responses to “Review: The Eye Of The Sheep by Sofie Laguna

  1. Theresa Smith Writes says:

    Books that are done well from a child’s perspective can be so moving. Room was like that. The innocence of the voice telling the story makes it so much more poignant and often terribly beautiful.

    • Completely agree. It’s Jimmy’s inability to really grasp what’s happening that makes it seem all the more devastating. This is so cleverly done, it’s a very powerful book.

  2. Lily Malone says:

    I absolutely agree. I remember starting this and thinking that the author was trying to be ‘too clever’ with the Jimmy POV. But I’m so glad I persisted beyond that. I loved this book.

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