Longlisted for the 2023 Walter Scott Prize for Historical Fiction
“The Sun Walks Down is the book I'm always longing to find: brilliant, fresh and compulsively readable. It is marvelous. I loved it start to finish.”
—Ann Patchett, author of The Dutch House
Fiona McFarlane's blazingly brilliant new novel, The Sun Walks Down, tells the many-voiced, many-sided story of a boy lost in colonial Australia.
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, farmers, mothers, indigenous trackers, cameleers, children, artists, schoolteachers, widows, maids, policemen—confront their relationships, both with one another and with the landscape they inhabit.
The colonial Australia of The Sun Walks Down is 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.
Told in many ways and by many voices, Fiona McFarlane's new novel pulses with love, art, and the unbearable divine. It arrives like a vision: mythic, vivid, and bright with meaning.
“McFarlane’s empathy, her delicious facility with language, and her keen insight into human nature, rendered in the smallest brushstrokes that eventually build into a complete picture, are all here, undiminished.”
—Jennifer Bort Yacovissi, The Washington Independent Review of Books
“A mysterious and fluid vision of the country’s Aboriginal lore, its ancient contours and its unpredictable weather . . . A beguiling novel, not just of ideas about history and place but of fiercely beautiful translations.”
—Elizabeth Lowry, The Guardian
"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
“Masterful storytelling . . . We read on with queasy dread when the spotlight falls on frightened and exhausted Denny wandering farther off-course . . . But we also read on captivated by the novel’s beautiful prose and polyphonic voices, and marveling at both its epic scope and rare intimacy.”
—Malcolm Forbes, The Washington Post
“A thrilling success . . . McFarlane spins a novel full of mystery and wonder.”
—Sam Sacks, The Wall Street Journal
“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
“A lyrical, polyphonic story . . . McFarlane peels back the layers of the whole community, showing us how all the many members respond—to the crisis, to each other, and to the mythic, desperate landscape in which they live.”
—Emily Temple, LitHub (most anticipated)
“The Sun Walks Down is a revelation. McFarlane places her lens first over the disappearance of a small boy in the Australian Outback and zooms out, weaving the stories of the people involved in the search for him into a tapestry as richly imagined and fully realized as anything I’ve read in recent memory. Her sentences fit together with the beauty of fine carpentry, and with them she’s constructed a novel that calls to my mind no less than Patrick White’s The Tree of Man. I can’t think of another writer working today who I admire more.”
—Kevin Powers, author of The Yellow Birds
“This tale of a farming community’s search for a missing child offers intimate human drama, ruminations on the intersections of art and life, and a sweeping, still relevant view of race and class in Australia . . . A masterpiece of riveting storytelling.”
—Kirkus Reviews (starred review)
“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, author of The Souvenir Museum and Bowlaway
“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
“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, Pulitzer Prize-winning author of Horse
“Gorgeous storytelling and superb characters are among the glories of The Sun Walks Down. Fiona McFarlane is an extraordinary writer, one of the best working today. Her magnificent reworking of the lost child story showcases the profound understanding she brings to people, places and the past. I lived in this wise, majestic novel for days and never wanted it to end.”
—Michelle de Kretser, author of The Hamilton Case