I ran into the bathroom where the tiles were white and cool and I leaned my cheek against the wall. I looked at the crisscrossing lines. I traced my finger up and down the grooves where the mould collected, growing thick and black with spores that shot out from strings attached to the main body. Each spore was poison but you would need to lick every crack in the bathroom wall and the guttering at the base of the shower and the circles around the taps before you showed the symptoms.
The cold of the tile against my cheek slowed my cells to a cycle per second. One . . . turn . . . two . . . turn . . . three . . . turn . . . I closed my eyes and made a picture of my dad’s hands.
I think I’ve been putting off this review. Granted I’ve been busy, I’ve been away, I have had a whole roller coaster ride of brain chemistry and I’ve not had the patience to sit at the computer for long. Which is a problem for a writer. But that’s a whole other story.
The Eye of The Sheep is an affecting novel about Jimmy, a little boy who, though it isn’t directly mentioned, is on the autistim spectrum. He lives with his mum who is huge and has asthma, a constant wheezing he recognises as her breathing ebbs and flows. He also lives with his brother whom he worships, and his father, who needs to be left alone with the bottle with the Cutty Sark on it fairly often. The family home is a fragile, tense place, until it is plunged into tragedy and Jimmy is thrust into the wider world.
There are so many high points of this novel. The tone of Jimmy’s narration, its unique tenor and view of the world speaks so many truths. The quiet threads of domestic violence, inherited violence, weave together so subtly you barely notice them until they’re everywhere. The characters are real, believable, Jimmy’s world is tangible and his losses are painful to watch.
Laguna’s novel is brave. It’s brave in a big way, a broad sweeping way, the way it tells the stories of families in peril through the eyes of one particular boy. It’s also brave in terms of the personal experience and tone of her protagonist. Her interpretation of Jimmy’s world could have gone wrong, it could have come across as patronising, it could have put Jimmy in a position of being “inspirational” in that horrible demeaning way. But it doesn’t. Jimmy speaks from his own view, plain and simple. I particularly understood his relationship with the dog. Dogs are the best people.
I really enjoyed this. Will it live with me forever until I die? Maybe. Will I ever read it again? Probably not. But I do recommend this one. I seem to recommend everything I read. But such is life.
The Eye of the Sheep, Sofie Laguna: four and a half stars.
Read it for: a masterclass in showing not telling.