In the first chapter Lawrence hides from his brother while playing hide and seek by hiding under a bunker door. The Bunker has been filled with dirt and he lowers the heavy door on top of himself. For a while he is trapped under it until his brother Paul helps him lift the heavy door. Reminiscing about it later, he thinks that while he was under that door he ceased to exist, not belonging anywhere or to anyone. A premonition.
Lawrence is ten, two years older than his brother Paul. He is an intelligent child, his grades high and his mother proud. Lawrence never knew his father who was killed during World War Two when he was only two years old.
At school Lawrence finds out he has a natural gift for painting. After his first art class, he sees the world in a different way, noticing the different shades, the transition and nuances of the myriad of different colours he sees everywhere.
Life looks very promising for Lawrence, that is until his uncle comes to stay with them.
Laguna has written a dark novel here. One in which a patriarchal figure, one who is meant to help Lawrence grow, protect, and nurture him in those early years, betrays this trust, this duty, and changes a life forever.
With “Infinite Splendours” Laguna shows us the devastating results of what happens to the psyche of a child when that child is secretly abused. A child too young to understand fully what is going on. A child who it tricked into believing he is as much to blame as the abuser.
Laguna explores the never-ending debate about nurture over nature. What would Lawrence’s life have become, if his uncle had not come onto the scene? Did his uncle’s despicable actions nurture Lawrence into the damaged and broken adult he becomes, or was he naturally always going to turn out this way, the terrible desires of the uncle contained within the family’s genes.
Lawrence is not the only casualty. Paul his younger brother lives with the grief and guilt of knowing what was happening, trying many times, but ultimately failing to stop it. He spends his life in a feeble attempt at retribution by looking after Lawrence’s every need, a lifeline to the outside world. A world that Lawrence has lost contact with, retreating within himself.
In his later life Lawrence finds himself, with neighbors moving in next door, becoming close friends with David, a ten-year old boy. Will Lawrence follow the actions of his uncle? Have his uncle’s actions turned Lawrence into the same breed of monster?
This is not an easy read, and as I noted before quite a dark novel. But one that is well written, allowing the reader to experience life from a shattered mind. 4 stars!
Sofie Laguna originally studied to be a lawyer at the University of New South Wales, but after deciding law was not for her, she moved to Melbourne to train as an actor. Sofie worked for a number of years as an actor at the same time as completing a Diploma in Professional Writing and Editing at the Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology. Sofie is now an author and playright writing for both adults and children.
Her many books for young people have been named Honour Books and Notable Books in the Children’s Book Council of Australia Book of the Year Awards and have been shortlisted in the Queensland Premier’s Awards. She has been published in the US and the UK and in translation throughout Europe and Asia.
Her picture book, On Our Way to the Beach, was included in the White Raven 2005 annual selection of outstanding international children’s books by the International Youth Library (Associated Project if UNESCO)
In 2008 Sofie released her first novel for adults, One Foot Wrong, to international acclaim. It was shortlisted for the Prime Minister’s Literary Awards and long-listed for the Miles Franklin Award. Screen rights for the book have been optioned and Sofie has recently completed the screenplay.
Sofie continues to write for a wide readership, from picture books for very young children, to series for older readers, to novels for adults.
Sofie lives in Melbourne with her partner and their young son
There is a wonderful podcast on the ABC's The Book Show, featuring Sofie Laguna, Douglas Stewart and Ken Follett. Link - https://www.abc.net.au/radionational/programs/the-book-show/sofie-laguna-douglas-stuart-ken-follett/12867186