The Sun Walks Down

Fiona McFarlane

293 pages Manuscript in English Literary Fiction

Represented by Stephanie Cabot

The Sun Walks Down by Fiona MacFarlane is, quite simply, the best novel I’ve ever read about 19th century Australia. A tense search for a lost child unfolds with rising dread against a landscape of harsh and radiant beauty, amid lives as tangled as barbed wire.”
Geraldine Brooks

“The Sun Walks Down is the book I’m always longing to find: brilliant, fresh and compulsively readable. It is marvellous. I loved it start to finish.”
—Ann Patchett 

In September 1883, a small town in the South Australian outback huddles under strange, vivid sunsets. Six-year-old Denny Wallace has gone missing during a dust storm, and the entire community is caught up in the search for him. As they scour the desert and mountains for the lost child, the residents of Fairly – newlyweds, landowners, farmers, mothers, artists, Indigenous trackers, cameleers, children, schoolteachers, widows, maids, policemen – confront their relationships, both with one another and with the ancient, impervious landscape they inhabit. The colonial Australia of The Sun Walks Down is unfamiliar, multicultural, and noisy with opinions, arguments, longings and terrors. It’s haunted by many gods – the sun among them, rising and falling on each day in which Denny could be found, or lost forever.

Fiona McFarlane:

“This novel grew out of my love of the arid landscape of Australia’s Flinders Ranges, which is littered with the stone ruins of the colonial farms and towns that failed to thrive there in the nineteenth century… the disquieting beauty of this ‘ghost desert’ really crystallised, for me, the idea of Australia’s colonial history as a series of unsettlements, beginning with the violent dispossession of the land’s traditional owners… And alongside all these ideas, one main image pulled me through the story: a six-year-old boy out in the desert, alone.”


Allen and Unwin’s cover:


“In precise, often glorious prose, the novel affords each character, including little Denny, a rich interiority, even as the landscape itself—a terrain layered with significance and myth for aboriginal peoples, while for Europeans ‘civilization’ there appears thin—provokes awe…With this remarkable novel, McFarlane establishes her place in the firmament of Australian letters, reworking and expanding the imaginary of its early years.” — Claire Messud, Harper’s Magazine

“Fiona McFarlane’s last book was scintillating. The Sun Walks Down is even better. It’s compelling: old-fashioned in all the best ways, historically sensitive, generous in storytelling and yet modern and sharp.” — Sarah Moss, author of The Fell

“Gorgeous storytelling and superb characters… magnificent.” —Michelle de Kretser, author of Scary Monsters

The Sun Walks Down is an exceptional, multi-layered historical novel with a beautifully styled plot. The power with which Fiona McFarlane evokes the place and time is extraordinary – a gorgeously written book.” — Evie Wyld

The Sun Walks Down is a brilliant, intimate epic, a book about a family and also about history that is full of heart and heat. Fiona McFarlane’s ear for the gurgles and clamor and hidden symphonies of her characters’ souls is flawless; the way their lives intertwine is propulsive, heartbreaking. She is, simply, one of the best writers around.” — Elizabeth McCracken

“Mesmerising…It’s a story with the quality of a myth or fable, that somehow manages to seem both restrained and infinite at once. And if that’s sounding a bit hoity-toity, be assured it’s an engrossing mystery.” — The Sydney Morning Herald, “Could this outback mystery be our next Australian classic?”

“A thrilling success…a novel full of mystery and wonder.” — The Wall Street Journal

“[McFarlane] sets her book in the late-19th century and fills it with a huge, kaleidoscopic cast…We also read on captivated by the novel’s beautiful prose and polyphonic voices, and marveling at both its epic scope and rare intimacy.” — The Washington Post

“A sensitive, slow-burn panorama of society in colonial Australia. Moving persuasively between a vast, impressively diverse array of characters, young and old, incoming and indigenous, privileged and deprived, she lets us listen in on their private (often competing) hopes and desires as the community pulls together to hunt for the boy. The result is moving and masterful — rich slices of life made vivid by the old-fashioned nitty-gritty of flesh-and blood character-making.” — The Daily Mail

“Set in rural Australia in the late nineteenth century, this ambitious novel assembles a band of characters—including a white farmer, an Aboriginal farmhand, and a Swedish painter—who are drawn together by the disappearance, in a dust storm, of a six-year-old boy. McFarlane’s figures emerge in intricate detail, defined by their petty desires, their moral imperfections, and their relationship both to the cataclysm of colonization and to the grandiosity of the landscape and the sun, which, for some, takes on near-divine significance.” — The New Yorker

“The novel offers us a mysterious and fluid vision of the country’s Aboriginal lore, its ancient contours and its unpredictable weather. The writing is tremendous…McFarlane is always aware of the artist’s responsibility when attempting, as Karl Rapp says, a ‘flawed translation of the world’. This is a beguiling novel, not just of ideas about history and place but of fiercely beautiful translations.” — The Guardian