It was nominated for the Stella Award and it won the Miles Franklin this year. It’s a book about family, loss, mental illness and violence, and at the core of it it’s about a young boy making his way in the world, navigating the challenges of life through a different lens than, it seems, anyone else.
The Eye of the Sheep is a haunting story, all the more resonating because of the voice of the narrator. Jimmy Flick has a behavioural disorder, though it’s never mentioned in the book, and his language and the story are so intertwined, it would be impossible to have the story without Jimmy to tell it. His relationships with his family – the love for his mother, fear of his father, awe of his big brother – are so clear in the musicality of his language. Laguna says that she enjoyed the freedom of the voice she chose to portray the story. Jimmy’s age, his disability, his quirky personality, all contribute to the playfulness of the language and thus, the way we read it.
I really felt for Jimmy, and although this isn’t the kind of book I read a lot – what would probably be classed as ‘literary fiction’ – I couldn’t put it down. I needed to know that Jimmy would be all right in the end.
On language and story, Laguna says “each is as important as the other.” The story flows lyrically because of the language used. It’s beautiful to read. However, because of the unreliablilty of the narrator, it can be somewhat confusing to follow. This speaks to the confusion and unfairness of life as a child with a learning difficulty, and whose parents have issues of their own that they find difficult to hide, but it also makes it harder on the reader, especially if you’re not used to this kind of book.
Despite this, I really loved The Eye of the Sheep. It definitely deserved to win the Miles Franklin award this year – it is firmly rooted in the Australian landscape, and it’s about a facet of Australian life not many people are talking about. I recommend it for sure.
All of the opinions expressed here are my own, and I was not paid to talk about this book, nor did I get a free copy. We at Eat Craft Nerd talk about the things we love, because we love them.