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‘The Eye of the Sheep’ wins 2015 Miles Franklin Award

Sofie Laguna has won the 2015 Miles Franklin Literary Award for her novel The Eye of the Sheep (A&U).

Laguna’s novel was chosen from a shortlist of five, which included: Golden Boys (Sonya Hartnett, Hamish Hamilton), The Golden Age (Joan London, Vintage), After Darkness (Christine Piper, A&U) and Tree Palace (Craig Sherborne, Text). Laguna will receive a cash prize of $60,000.

The Eye of the Sheep tells the story of a poor family living in an industrial Melbourne suburb and struggling to cope with a different and difficult child. Speaking on behalf of the judging panel, State Library of NSW Mitchell Librarian Richard Neville described it as ‘an extraordinary novel about love and anger, and how sometimes there is little between them’.

Neville praised in particular the ‘raw, high-energy and coruscating language’ that describes the world of the young central character Jimmy Flick.

‘Jimmy Flick is a character who sees everything, but his manic x-ray perceptions don’t correspond with the way others see his world. His older brother understands him some of the time, and his mother almost all of the time, but other people, including his violent father, just see him as difficult. Weathering successive waves of domestic violence, Jimmy navigates his way through the shoals of alcohol-abuse, illness and tragedy that swamp his parents, and ultimately reaches the possibility of equanimity,’ said Neville.

Neville was joined on the judging panel by journalist Murray Waldren; bookseller Lindy Jones; author, editor and Queensland Writers Centre founding chair Craig Munro; and Flinders University emeritus professor Susan Sheridan.

The Eye of the Sheep is the second adult novel from Laguna, following her 2008 novel One Foot Wrong, which was longlisted for the Miles Franklin Award and shortlisted for the Prime Minister’s Literary Awards. Laguna is also the author of numerous books for children.

The Eye of the Sheep was shortlisted for this year’s Stella Prize.

‘We are absolutely thrilled for Sofie,’ A&U publisher Jane Palfreyman told Books+Publishing. ‘That this beautiful novel will now be read by tens of thousands more readers is the best news possible. It’s a brave, gorgeously written and exhilarating and haunting glimpse into a world that is all too real for many people and unimaginable for many others. If we read to understand the world, this novel will enrich and teach us all.’

A&U said a ‘huge reprint’ is underway and stock will be in-store next week.

Readings’ books division manager Martin Shaw told Books+Publishing he expects sales will be ‘really strong’ for Laguna’s novel.

The Eye of the Sheep only sold in modest numbers on release last year, despite positive reviews. But it certainly got a big fillip from its Stella Prize shortlisting earlier in the year, and its subsequent Miles Franklin longlisting and shortlisting. So I think sales will be really strong—the reading public are always eager to discover a new voice after all, as Emily Bitto’s Stella win attested.’

Shaw added: ‘You’ve got to say that the Miles Franklin judges have developed a bit of form lately in terms of passing over more fancied prospects—one need only think of Evie Wyld’s win over Richard Flanagan and Alexis Wright last year.’

For further information about the Miles Franklin Literary Award, visit the website here.


Category: Local news