London’s third novel has already won several prestigious awards in her native Australia and it’s very easy to see why. It is a tale which begins with short chapters and beautifully drawn characterisation which draws the reader in right from the start. The title is the name of (an actual) convalescent hospital for children with polio, giving them the chance to relearn how to walk. It is set in the early 50’s in an Australia fascinated by their new Queen.
Main character, 13 year old Frank Gold, the oldest child at the hospital, is struck down with polio after emigrating from a difficult war as a Hungarian Jew. Both parents are with him but their attempts at a new life are interrupted by this sudden and cruel illness. It is a beautifully observed, quiet novel which belies its grim subject matter and becomes a life-affirming testament to hope and love. Frank has aspirations to become a poet and in Elsa, another patient, he has found his muse. The care for the children, their struggles and triumphs and the effects this stigmatizing disease has on their families is superbly handled. At times it reminded me of the critically acclaimed TB hospital set “Dark Circle” by Linda Grant but here I found myself caring more making “The Golden Age” an even more satisfactory novel.
Written with a real flair for language it picks up on the perceptiveness of adolescents unable to move on with their own lives but absorbing everything around them. This is a real treat- a poetic, warm, involving, even elegant novel based upon a hideous disease.
An Australian multi-award winning novel
The Golden Age was published in 2016 by Europa. Many thanks to the publishers and Nudge-books for the review copy.
4 thoughts on “100 Essential Books – The Golden Age- Joan London (Europa 2016)”
Sounds very engaging and warm. People do not realise the damage polio can cause…I remember my ma was caring for an elderly gentleman in his own flat, who was similarly scarred by polio. His leg was shorter, visibly. He had a special shoe, it must have affected the foot itself, not only the length of his leg…Sharp, as anything, he was in charge of some physically disabled charity, retired then, but still had great contacts with lawyers. judges…gained through his work, helped a lot with my ma’s messy divorce…..He was famously known for throwing his “red book” in the faces of some irritated comrades at a congress.. He was marvelous. So you see not only Mao is infamous for his red book. And I have a lot of fond memories of him, teaching me to read, basically sitting me down and reading together. Priceless.
That’s an excellent memory, Monika. Thanks very much for sharing it. I’m glad my review got your remembering this special gentleman
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