We’re delighted that two of our authors have been announced on the shortlist of the 2015 Miles Franklin Literary Award, congratulations to Sofie Laguna with The Eye of the Sheep, and Christine Piper, with her Vogel’s Award winning After Darkness.
The Miles Franklin Literary Award was established in 1957, through the will of writer Stella Miles Franklin, and is presented to a novel of the highest literary merit which represents Australian life.
Past winners from our wonderful authors include Michelle de Kretser’s Questions of Travel in 2013, Andrew McGahan’s The White Earth in 2005, and two wins for Alex Miller with Journey to the Stone Country in 2003 following The Ancestor Game in 1993.
Tim Winton, who like Christine also started his career with The Australian/Vogel’s Award in 1982, has won the Miles Franklin four times since 1984.
Sofie Laguna’s The Eye of the Sheep
The Eye of the Sheep is Sofie Laguna’s second novel, following her debut adult novel One Foot Wrong, which was also longlisted for the Miles Franklin in 2009. The book was also recently shortlisted for The Stella Prize.
The Eye of the Sheep is a haunting tale of a dysfunctional family, complete with alcoholism and violence, told through the sparkling voice of a little boy called Jimmy who shines light and humour on what is a dark story. The story, and thoughts of Jimmy, linger long in the mind for readers who are left with much to ponder.
Jimmy Flick is quick and observant, but his perceptions don’t correspond with the way others see the world. He needs to see how things fit, but he doesn’t fit too well himself. His older brother understands him some of the time, and his mother almost all of the time, but other people just see him as difficult – including his father who is frustrated by his difference. The Eye of the Sheep impressively examines domestic violence through Jimmy’s non-judgmental perceptions. Hints of his parents’ challenging upbringings adds to the gravity of the story of these working-class people trying their hardest to build a family, capable of both proud love and sickening violence. Gavin’s battle with alcohol, and Paula’s with her health, are related through Jimmy’s skewed interpretations.
The power of this finely crafted novel lies in its coruscating language, inventive and imaginative, reflecting Jimmy’s vivid inner world of light and connections and pulsing energy. Laguna has a true ear for the rhythms of everyday dialogue, and her compassionate rendering of the frustrations – and compensations – of dealing with a child of sideways abilities, makes this novel an impressively eloquent achievement.
Reviews of The Eye of the Sheep:
Sofie Laguna’s The Eye of the Sheep captures autistic experience… Laguna has vividly brought to life what it must be like to be a child, and a different kind of child.
– Sydney Morning Herald
This is a novel very much of its time. If the measure of a government and a society is how well it treats its children, its sick and those on the fringes, then Laguna’s characters show the ways we are failing. 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.
– The Australian
This book should be impossibly bleak, but Laguna has managed to imbue it with luminosity. This is a story about how to find your place in the world and how to accept what you have been given. The Eye of the Sheep will break your heart – a small price to pay to hear Jimmy’s story.
– Readings Books
Watch Sofie read from The Eye of the Sheep or hear her discuss the book on Radio National’s Books and Arts program below, as well as finding an extract to read.
Christine Piper’s After Darkness
Vogel’s Award winning After Darkness tells the story of a Japanese doctor in Australia, both before and during his internment during World War II, as well as the life he left behind in Japan. While stuck on the internment camp he grapples with his past and, like Laguna’s novel, leaves readers with lasting questions and memories to ponder long after turning the final pages.
Christine Piper’s After Darkness is an absorbing novel about Japan, identity, personal responsibility and the Second World War. Its narrator, Dr Tomakazu Ibaraki, recounts the unravelling of his life from an ambitious research scientist in an elite military research unit in the mid-1930s, to a Broome hospital and finally a South Australian internment camp in 1942. Ibaraki initially enjoys his work at the Tokyo-based Epidemic Prevention Laboratory, and his parallel courtship and marriage to Kayoko. But as the awful nature of the research becomes apparent, the hours more demanding, and the office politics more suffocating, his marriage begins to disintegrate. Ibaraki’s inability to articulate his feelings, and the incompatibility of loyalty to both Japan and to Kayoko, means that his life is a flight from saying things that need to be said.
This spare, restrained novel is powerfully driven, paradoxically, by Imbaraki’s reticence. His insistently measured life is his escape, and his misery. This thoughtful and intelligent novel offers a meditation on, as Ibaraki himself puts it, ‘the very quality that makes us human: our capacity to understand each other.’
Reviews of After Darkness
For all the violence hedged round the narrative, something of Ishiguro’s gentle, understated melancholy infects After Darkness. Such poise is surprising in a debut, as is its scope and ambition.
– The Australian
Piper can tell a story, and despite the feeling of impending doom that pervades the book from the start, After Darkness has a satisfying plot not always found in such literary works. And literary it is. Piper can write with both economy and descriptive impact.
– Sydney Morning Herald
Hear Christine discuss the book on Radio National’s Books and Arts, and read an extract below, with more reviews and interviews found here.
The winner of the Miles Franklin Literary Award will be announced on 23 June 2015. If you’re a young writer under 35 who wishes to follow in the footsteps of Christine Piper, entries to the 2016 Vogel’s Award are open until the end of May with the 2015 winner announced as Murray Middleton last month.