Sofie Laguna’s The Eye of the Sheep won the 2015 Miles Franklin – and is one of my favourite reads of recent years. So when I was offered a review copy of her latest, The Choke, I could not say yes fast enough.
The Choke is destined to win awards too.
Laguna excels at writing complex child narrators, and placing them in dangerous worlds. But thats where the similarities between these two books end.
Justine is a girl abandoned by both father and mother and living with her ailing grandfather in a remote place known as the choke – where the bush meets the river. She’s not neglected, but certainly lives a simple lifestyle in a man’s world. It’s a violent world too – and Laguna makes this apparent even in describing children’s play in the opening chapter.
School is no refuge either – at least, not until she befriends a young disabled not who is also an outsider. But not even this can save her from the violence in her world. Before she is 14 she has witnessed and experienced abuse. And your heart will break. I doubt anyone could read this story and not be moved by what Justine experiences – and perhaps more powerfully, how she turns something just awful into something potentially beautiful. There were tears in my eyes as I closed the final pages. This is not to be missed.
Sofie Laguna’s wonderful novel The Eye of the Sheep is worthy of all the accolades it has received, including the Miles Franklin award. Although not her first novel, it is an exceptional piece of work bringing her deservedly to the attention of the literary world.
In Jimmy Flick, her main character, Laguna explores on of the most interest narrators I have come across. Clearly with a form of ADHD, Flick perceives the world around him in strange and beautiful ways, seeing connections between things that other would miss. He is both oblivious and insightful. It’s a delightful perspective on the world – and it is nuanced and realistic.
On top of this, Laguna explores complex issues of love, family and violence. Jimmy has a beautiful relationship with his mother – the only person to really understand him, and love for his father, despite his role as an abusive alcoholic. When his older brother leaves, a series of events begin that will change Jimmy’s world forever.
I loved every minute of this reading experience and cannot recommend it highly enough. Get onto it – it is both moving and masterful.
Bird and Sugar Boy (or James and Craig) are outsiders who have found each other. Bird in particular is troubled – his mother left him alone with his father years ago, and all he cares about are birds. But life works when the two of them are together. Then Sugar Boy reveals his family is moving to Broome – and Bird’s life falls apart. The one person who supported him is going away, and he feels more abandoned than ever.
Bird takes off to try to find the one person who never let him down – the author of his favourite book on birds. But the world is bigger than Bird imagined, and in his time of need, he finds out who really cares about him, and how he can show his caring to others.
Quite moving in places, although not a lot of action. Might be a struggle for reluctant readers who need a lot of plot. This is more quiet and introspective. Sofie Laguna is one to watch for though – I’ll be looking for her Miles Franklin Award-winning The Eye of the Sheep.