Infinite Splendours by Sofie Laguna

1. First lines. 2. Published 2020 Allen and Unwin 3. Spring at Barbizon by Jean Francois Millet [Public Domain] via Wikimedia 4. Two boys Kneeling under tree [Public Domain] via Pikrepo

It’s 1953 and Lawrence and his younger brother Paul are living on a farm in Victoria, Australia with their widowed mother Louise. Lawrence has a talent for art, and excels at his schoolwork. The boys are happy in their childhood even though times are tough, and their mother is emotionally distant. Louise is overjoyed when her brother Reggie comes for an extended stay, and Lawrence enjoys having a new father figure. However, a horrifying experience changes everything.


“It was like every other Saturday; while Paul and I played in the yard or helped Mrs Barry or fought or scored or raced the bikes, we were waiting to hear the sound of the Austin in the drive. For it to be Mother come home.”

“The oils Paul brought me allowed the freedom of exploration; I could work on a single painting for days, travelling deeper, making changes, staying longer in the smallest of places. I was as a man who had been hungry all his life and was only now taking his dinner.”

“(I) turned to a painting by Master Millet. A field in spring, a rainbow arching over rain-filled clouds. I ran my fingers over trees in the foreground, heavy with fruit, the path of dirt, the sky of blue and grey. Beside the painting was a letter by Master Millet to the historian Alfred Sensier. ‘I see far more in the countryside than charm, I see infinite splendours.’

My thoughts:

Highly recommended. The author writes of the minutiae of Lawrence’s daily life in a way that beguiles the reader, drawing the reader deeply into Lawrence’s thoughts and feelings. This book is both devastatingly tender and devastatingly powerful. References to paintings of the Masters is a fascinating aspect of this story.

Book Reviews:
  • The Guardian: “Written with compassion and tenderness, and Laguna’s characteristic aptitude for inhabiting the inner spaces of a vulnerable preadolescent, Infinite Splendours is suffused with outward radiance, which makes its excursions into darkness all the more horrifying to read.”
  • Readings: “Laguna is the type of writer who does not hide actuality from her readers. Her mission is to look into dark corners and examine suffering, to expose silence, and to give us an insight into other people’s lives. Like all her adult novels, this one will make you cry. Do read this novel knowing that it is painful, but also read it because Laguna’s writing is kind and, truly, a type of poetry in action.”

Sofie Laguna


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