THE SUN WALKS DOWN by Fiona McFarlane (Allen & Unwin)
Literary fiction review
I was privileged to write an advance review about The Sun Walks Down for Books + Publishing (content now unlocked).
Here is my additional review for PaperbarkWords blog, with a focus on sun gods, colonisation and art.
The Sun Walks Down by Fiona McFarlane
A wide-ranging cast of self-important white men, their families and the Aboriginal people working for them raises the spectre of colonisation as they hunt for a lost child in The Sun Walks Down.
After six-year-old Denny becomes lost in a dust storm, he thinks the angry gods have descended from the sun and are hunting him with fire. When he sees the “God-struck” burning tree he fears that the gods threaten his mother. The dramatic landscape and a young boy’s interpretation of his world as he strives to reach the safety of home fashion the vibrant, allusive imagery that underpins this antipodal epic.
Meanwhile, search parties of men and Denny’s spirited sister Cissy look for the boy. Aboriginal trackers with complex histories of stolen land and children and knowledges of old law and “land dense with motion: the motion of ancestors, spirits, songs, stories … fire and the celestial bodies” are recruited.
Karl the Swedish painter holds the role of exotic outsider. He dazzles like an angel and, with his resourceful artist wife Bess, is a bridge to another place. The sun doesn’t set in Swedish, “it walks down” and, inspired by the overwhelming red sky and the missing boy, Karl makes a pact to paint “the feeling of being both claimed by and exiled from the world”.
Fiona McFarlane is an exceptional writer whose work is well-worth collecting.