Golden Hill by Francis Spufford

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Spufford suggests in an afterword that he was aiming for "a colonial counterpart to Joseph Andrews,” but there’s a touch here also of the Ian Fleming books that he warmly recalls in his autobiographical The Child That Books Built (2002). A first-rate entertainment with a rich historical feel and some delightful twists.
-Kirkus

Synopsis

New York, a small town on the tip of Manhattan island, 1746.

One rainy evening in November, a handsome young stranger fresh off the boat pitches up at a counting-house door in Golden Hill Street: this is Mr Smith, amiable, charming, yet strangely determined to keep suspicion simmering. For in his pocket, he has what seems to be an order for a thousand pounds, a huge amount, and he won't explain why, or where he comes from, or what he can be planning to do in the colonies that requires so much money.

Should the New York merchants trust him? Should they risk their credit and refuse to pay? Should they befriend him, seduce him, arrest him; maybe even kill him?

An astonishing first novel, as stuffed with incident as a whole shelf of conventional fiction, Golden Hill is both a book about the eighteenth century, and itself a novel cranked back to the form's eighteenth century beginnings, when anything could happen on the page, and usually did, and a hero was not a hero unless he ran the frequent risk of being hanged.

Rich in language and historical perception, yet compulsively readable, Golden Hill has a plot that twists in every chapter, and a puzzle at its heart that won't let go till the last paragraph of the last page.

Set a generation before the American Revolution, it paints an irresistible picture of a New York provokingly different from its later self: but subtly shadowed by the great city to come, and already entirely a place where a young man with a fast tongue can invent himself afresh, fall in love - and find a world of trouble.

 

About Francis Spufford

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Published May 24, 2016 by Faber & Faber. 352 pages
Genres: Literature & Fiction, History, Travel. Fiction
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Critic reviews for Golden Hill
All: 6 | Positive: 6 | Negative: 0

Kirkus

Excellent
on Apr 02 2017

Spufford suggests in an afterword that he was aiming for "a colonial counterpart to Joseph Andrews,” but there’s a touch here also of the Ian Fleming books that he warmly recalls in his autobiographical The Child That Books Built (2002). A first-rate entertainment with a rich historical feel and some delightful twists.

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NPR

Good
Reviewed by Maureen Corrigan on Jul 10 2017

But Golden Hill is so gorgeously crafted, so intelligent and entertaining, it makes a case for the enduring vitality of the more straightforward historical novel.

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Star Tribune

Good
Reviewed by Malcolm Forbes on Jun 30 2017

Spufford, an English author of five acclaimed books of nonfiction, has described his first fiction writing experience as “intoxicating.” His results are also intoxicating — so much so that we should hope this venture is no one-off side project but the start of a new chapter.

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NY Times

Above average
Reviewed by Dwight Garner on Jun 27 2017

...he’s written a high-level entertainment, filled with so much brio that it’s as if each sentence had been dusted with Bolivian marching powder and cornstarch and gently fried.

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Guardian

Above average
Reviewed by Natasha Tripney on Oct 30 2016

The flow of the storytelling can feel a bit fitful, but there are some glorious episodes here, including a description of the theatre of the time and the creatures who populated it that is at once full of captivating detail...

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Guardian

Good
Reviewed by Steven Poole on Jun 01 2016

The whole thing, then, is a first-class period entertainment, until at length it becomes something more serious. The comedy gives way to darker tones, and Smith’s secret is at last revealed – but the novel, most pleasingly, still has one more trick up its sleeve.

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