Jimmy isn’t like other kids. Wise and naïve both, he sees things other people don’t, and misses social cues that other people wouldn’t think twice about. His mother is fiercely protective, his dad frustrated, and his brother Robby is growing up too fast.
Sofie Laguna does a remarkable job of getting into Jimmy’s head – we see the bewildering adult world through Jimmy’s eyes. And the world he inhabits is not just bewildering, but frequently horrific. Jimmy’s dad drinks; and when he is on the whisky, he lashes out. School is “enemy territory”, with teachers lacking in empathy and no friends. The only safety he has is his loving but over-protective mother. How will Jimmy cope when a crisis shakes his world to its very core?
By page 20, I knew this book would break my heart. Tales of domestic violence aren’t what I read for fun. But by the same point in the book, Laguna already had me hooked with her words. The way Jimmy describes his world, what he sees and what he feels, made me want to keep reading, to cheer him on, and to hope that by the end, things would have worked themselves out. Jimmy is such a compelling character that everything else got ignored for the next 200 pages – I couldn’t stop till I knew how things turned out.
The Eye of the Sheep won Laguna the Miles Franklin Award in 2015, and was shortlisted for the Stella Prize. It stands with other books like We Need to Talk About Kevin, Dark Places, The Lovely Bones and Paddy Clark Ha Ha Ha that deal with extremely uncomfortable subjects in such a compelling way that you just have to keep reading, even as you’re wondering if you should stop. Because of the subject matter, it won’t be for everyone, but if you can cope with it, I highly recommend it. Jimmy is a delight, and is going to be staying with me for quite a while.
Reviewed by Rachel Moore
The Eye of the Sheep
by Sofie Laguna
Published by Allen & Unwin