In our March 2020 Bulletin we reported on Glebe resident Peter Cochrane’s latest work in non-fiction (Best We Forget. The War for White Australia), but Peter’s most recent work in fiction is the frontier novel The Making of Martin Sparrow (Penguin/Viking 2018). The book is currently Short-Listed for the Voss Literary Prize and Long-Listed for the International Dublin Literary Award.
The tale is centered in the mountain country west of the Hawkesbury River. Lazy, lovelorn and luckless, Sparrow is already deep in debt when a devastating flood strikes the Hawkesbury in 1806. His little farm, his 30 acre patch, is all but washed away, confronting the former convict with a choice: he can buckle down, set about his agricultural renewal and work off his debts, or he can heed the whispers of an earthly paradise on the far side of the mountains – a place where men are truly free – and strike out for a new life. Ever uncertain, Sparrow decides to go. Along the way his resolve is fortified by unexpected company, a wolfhound pup and a Romany girl called Bea Faa, who is fleeing her own brutalised past. For Martin, the care of these two is a challenge as big as the mountains and as daunting as the indigenous people (‘the warring savages’) who inhabit them. To meet that challenge he must transcend himself, make himself anew. And thereby hangs a tale. David Whish-Wilson, reviewing Martin Sparrow for the Australian Book Review in November 2018 wrote:
‘Brilliant debut. Sparrow is a terrific fictional creation. There is wit and wisdom to be had in the book. Following the frontier, and beyond, is precisely the direction the novel takes … It is here, too, that Cochrane employs some of his finest writing, embarking upon perfectly modulated descriptive riffs that betray an appropriate sense of awe and developing understanding for what is a vast, ancient, storied landscape – a terrific accompaniment to the pitch-perfect dialogue and deep characterisation found in this fine novel.’
Peter lives in beautiful Allen St Glebe. He is an Hon. Associate at the University of Sydney’s History Department. His book Colonial Ambition: Foundations of Australian Democracy won the inaugural Prime Minister’s Prize for History and The Age Book of the Year in 2007. His first venture into fiction was the novella Governor Bligh and the Short Man (Penguin 2012) and his latest work of non-fiction is Best We Forget. The War for White Australia, 1914-18 (Text Publishing, Melbourne 2018). He is a Fellow of the Australian Academy of the Humanities.