It is always a joy to come to the sea when you spend your days on a rural property many miles from water (other than bore water or occasional rain water!).
At Shoal Bay on the NSW Central Coast, the waters are crystalline and as clear as any Mediterranean beach and the coves fringed with ancient towering gums and unspoiled bushland.
Apart from lolling in the tranquil waters, it is possible also to expend some energy and walk and climb, even to the top of Mt Tomaree and experience the amazing view of the three open beaches, Wreck, Zenith and Zephyr, all part of the Tomaree National Park.
And when its time to rest, there’s no better place to read and work through the pile of Christmas gift books. They range from some unknown (to me) like those by David Nicholls,‘Us’, some old friends like Kent Harup’s, ‘Our Souls at Night’ and then a wide range of requested titles by Australian authors, like Hanna Kent’s ‘The Good People’, Tim Winton’s ‘The Boy behind the Curtain’ and Holly Throsby’s ‘Goodwood’ as well as overseas writers like Deborah Levy’s ‘Hot Milk’ and Graham Swift’s ‘Mothering Sunday’.
I came to the beach halfway through a re-reading of Sofie Laguna’s ‘The Eye of the Sheep’, which is on the list for my book club this year, so I had to finish it before venturing to the exciting new pile of books.
If you haven’t discovered this book yet I recommend it. It is an adult book but told totally in the voice of a child, a special child, a child of ‘sideways abilities’, ‘a charged, vulnerable precious little boy’. Sofie Laguna sustains the voice of Jimmy with ease throughout all the sections of the book and even when he is inarticulate, we see the world through his eyes and experience his idiosyncratic inner life.
The themes are weighty; it is about family dysfunction, family violence and the power of a mother’s love. Sofie Laguna deals with distressing incidents with no sentimentality and with a deftness of touch so that the voice of Jimmy does not become relentless or hard to bear.
The structure is interesting, divided into six Parts with an Epilogue, each part shrinking in size as Jimmy advances from age 6 to 17 and his world shatters around him. As you read you want to enfold this child, hug him and keep him safe. Sofie Laguna said, ‘he made me laugh so much, and cry. I still think about him a lot-I think about Jimmy being out there in the world for me and I feel grateful and proud of him.’
As a writer, I glean so much from this comment; I see how entwined an author has to be when creating a character; they have to live and breathe with them as they take them on their journey.
I am going to explore more of Sofie Laguna’s writing; she has an earlier adult novel ‘One Foot Wrong’ and an extensive list of children’s books as well and I think another adult novel due out this year.