Each weekday between now and the announcement of the 2015 Stella Prize shortlist on March 12, we’ll be turning the Stella spotlight on a different longlisted author and their book. Today is day seven, and our featured book is…

The Eye of the Sheep by Sofie Laguna (Allen & Unwin)

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What the Stella Prize judges said:

Jimmy Flick isn’t an ordinary child, and as his story progresses we quickly realise that he has some unspecified condition, probably somewhere on the autism spectrum. He can’t slow down, he can’t calm down, and he can’t respond appropriately in difficult or even dangerous situations, but his world view is unique and full of unexpected insights. His father, defeated by the difficulties of living with such a child, takes to drink and domestic violence. And then things get worse.

Sofie Laguna faultlessly maintains the storytelling voice of Jimmy, who is oblivious in some ways and hauntingly knowing and observant in others. There are many places in which such a story could tip over into sentimentality or melodrama, but Laguna’s authorial control and intelligence keep the story on track and the reader engaged and empathetic, and she manages both the humour and the darkness of this story with great sensitivity and precision.

The blurb:

Meet Jimmy Flick. He’s not like other kids – he’s both too fast and too slow. He sees too much, and too little. Jimmy’s mother Paula is the only one who can manage him. She teaches him how to count sheep so that he can fall asleep. 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 to navigate the unfathomable world on his own, and make things right.

About the author:

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Sofie Laguna originally studied to be a lawyer, but after deciding law was not for her, she trained as an actor. Sofie is now an author, actor and playwright. Her books for young people have been named Honour Books and Notable Books in the Children’s Book Council of Australia Book of the Year Awards and have been shortlisted in the Queensland Premier’s Awards. She has been published in the US and the UK and in translation in Europe and Asia. Sofie’s first novel for adults, One Foot Wrong, was also published throughout Europe, the United States and the United Kingdom. Sofie has written the screenplay for the film of One Foot Wrong, scheduled for pre-production in 2014.

What the critics said:

‘In Sofie Laguna’s hands, this is a magical piece of storytelling that uplifts as it gazes unflinchingly into the abyss of some people’s lives. To say it is an enjoyable read is to undermine its subject. What The Eye of the Sheep is, is a treatise on the indefatigable, that the human spirit must, does, ultimately triumph.’ – Meredith Jaffe, The Hoopla

‘In harnessing her storytelling facility to expose the flaws in the system with what is becoming trademark empathy, Laguna is an author proving the novel is a crucial document of the times.’ – Louise Swinn, The Australian

‘Laguna has vividly brought to life what it must be like to be a child, and a different kind of child, and the effect such a child and his condition can have on a family. By getting inside Jimmy’s mind, and showing what an amazing place it is, a book like this goes a long way toward explaining what a library of textbooks could not.’ – Anne Susskind, Sydney Morning Herald

Further reading:

And finally…

Click below to see Sofie read from The Eye of the Sheep during the Stella longlist readings event at the Digital Writers’ Festival:



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