Joan London, author of Gilgamesh , gives her readersan immensely satisfying and generous-hearted story about displacement, recovery, resilience, and love with The Golden Age . Read more...
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Joan London, author of Gilgamesh, gives her readersan immensely satisfying and generous-hearted story about displacement, recovery, resilience, and love with The Golden Age.
Thirteen-year-old Frank Gold s family, Hungarian jews, escape the perils of World War II to the safety of Australia in the 1940s. But not long after their arrival Frank is diagnosed with polio. He is sent to a sprawling children s hospital called The Golden Age, where he meets Elsa, the most beautiful girl he has ever seen, a girl who radiates pure light. Frank and Elsa fall in love, fueling one another s rehabilitation, facing the perils of polio and adolescence hand in hand, and scandalizing the prudish staff of The Golden Age.
Meanwhile, Frank and Elsa s parents must cope with their changing realities. Elsa s mother Margaret, who has given up everything to be a perfect mother, must reconcile her hopes and dreams with her daughter s sickness. Frank s parents, transplants to Australia from a war-torn Europe, are isolated newcomers in a country that they do not love and that does not seem to love them. Frank s mother Ida, a renowned pianist in Hungary, refuses to allow the western deserts of Australia to become her home. But her husband, Meyer, slowly begins to free himself from the past and integrate into a new society.
With tenderness and humor, The Golden Age tells a deeply moving story about illness and recovery. It is a book about learning to navigate the unfamiliar, about embracing music, poetry, death, and, most importantly, life.
2015 Patrick White Literary Award
2015 Kibble Literary Award
Queensland Premier's Award for Fiction
New South Wales Premier's People's Choice Award"
Publishers Weekly® Reviews
- Reviewed in: Publishers Weekly, page .
- Review Date: 2016-06-13
- Reviewer: Staff
Seen one way, Frank Gold is unfortunate: he and his parents are from Hungary but are now “New Australians,” victims of World War II—refugees, displaced people, survivors—that Australia prides itself on having taken in. Nearly 13, he is a polio victim relearning how to walk; he’s seen a friend die in an iron lung. But Frank sees himself as a poet, one of the lucky few with a vocation, and as a lover. Having seen Elsa Briggs, another patient at the Golden Age Children’s Polio Convalescent Home, he knows that everything that has happened has lead him to her. London (The Good Parents) doesn’t limit herself to Frank and Elsa: although short, the book feels ample, telling not just Frank’s story but those of his parents, anxious pianist Ida and handsome Meyer, trying to adjust to Australia and cope with their wartime experiences; Elsa and her worried mother; and Sister Olive Penny, the Golden Age’s generous and efficient head nurse. They all get time to shine in this limpid book about health and death, love and poetry, sex and hope, war and its aftermath. Like Sister Penny, London sees past people’s exteriors to their complex and desirous interiors, and she generously offers those people to us in all their fullness. The novel was a recipient of multiple awards in London’s native Australia, and deservedly so: it is pretty much perfect. (Aug.)