Harshly Boring: The Making of Martin Sparrow

My last post was about learning history through novels. Here’s my response to a novel by an Australian historian, Peter Cochrane.

I heard a review of The Making of Martin Sparrow, on ABC Radio National here in Australia. I put in a request online at the ACT (Australian Capital Territory) public library.

That’s how I came to having a copy of The Making of Martin Sparrow. I was already reading several other books so I put it on top of a pile. A few days later, I received a reminder from the library by email. The book was due in three days!

I read The Making of Martin Sparrow as an emotional journey. When the first page had a long list of characters, I was skeptical.  I skipped over that page and started reading. Tentatively. I kept on, although the main character, Martin Sparrow, was not particularly likeable.

At one point I thought the story was harshly boring and was ready to put it aside. The writing, the odd turn of phrase, the originality kept me going, even when the narrative seemed tedious.

My perseverance was rewarded. I entered into the world of settlers on the Hawkesbury River in southeastern Australia at the time of the flood of 1806. A world dominated by male violence, drinking, whoring – not topics that usually hold my interest. There was something more shining through… patches of sunlight in a forbidding, very dark sky.

My emotional journey through The Making of Martin Sparrow continues in the next blog.

Have you read this book

What are your reactions?

Author: Pamela Collett

I was born and raised in Kansas City, Missouri. I have a B.A. from Stanford University and a M.Sc. from Cornell University. I have lived and worked in San Francisco, Berkeley and Oakland, California as well as in Washington, DC. Outside the United States, I lived and worked in Venezuela, Pakistan, Afghanistan, China, Uganda, Somalia and Kenya. I currently live in Canberra, Australia. I edited three books: Bold Plum: with the Guerillas in China's War against Japan by Hsiao Li Lindsay; Peace and Milk: Scenes of Northern Somalia by James Lindsay and Fatima Jibrell; and Solo vale si piensas rápido by Mehedy Lopez, a book of poetry in Spanish. In 2016, I published a book of my poetry and drawings, Silence Spoken. I have taught communication skills, English as a second language, and English for journalists (in Beijing, China) at university and secondary school levels. I was a features writer for the Daily Journal, (Caracas, Venezuela), and The Chronicle of Higher Education. I am a member of the ACT (Australian Capital Territory) Writers Centre, active in a writers’ group and a contributor to poetry readings, That Poetry Thing, in Canberra, Australia.

One thought on “Harshly Boring: The Making of Martin Sparrow”

  1. I followed, Pamela. Best wishes on this endeavor. The stacks of books to read by my bed are staggeringly high. I had to give up on a few and give them away to make it more manageable. I think I’ll be reading the books you review vicariously through your reactions more frequently than adding them to my own stack. Here, I listen to National Public Radio book reviews and interviews, and sometimes reserve books online through the Oakland Public Library (isn’t that a wonderful modern service?). I’m currently reading a book called Me and My House: James Baldwin’s last decade in France by Magdalena J. Zabrowska. It’s about how the now abandoned and (sadly) partially demolished house reflected Baldwin as a person, but also shaped him and his writing. Recommended by a friend, but I fear I’m finding the language yoyoing between being a bit dense and academic and being too like a breathless schoolgirl describing a crush. The author is so besotted with Baldwin’s writing that she nearly swoons in type when describing the objects she sees when let into the remains of the house by a caretaker and old friend of Baldwin’s.

    Next up on the queue will probably be Sign My Name to Freedom. It’s an autobiography by Betty Reid Soskin, the National Park Service’s oldest ranger at 96; she gives history talks at the Rosie the Riveter World War II Home Front National Historical Park (that’s a mouthful, and the name probably sits a bit awkwardly on stationary!) in Richmond, CA. I heard her speak in downtown Oakland at her book launching. Here’s a video of her talk at the Commonwealth Club in San Francisco (scroll down to find it at the bottom of the page).

    Best wishes!


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