BOOK REVIEW: GOLDEN HILL by Francis Spufford

Golden Hill

Who is Mr Smith?  Is the question that everybody wants an answer to in GOLDEN HILL, even the reader.  We even have to wait to discover that his given name is Richard.  Not that you feel cheated about the withheld information, just page turningly curious to find out.

To begin at the beginning, Mr Smith arrives in colonial New York on a wet November day, he makes his way to Lovell and Company on Golden Hill Street and presents a bill of exchange for £1,000 payable in 60 days.  This is an enormous sum of money and to pay it out to an unknown young man would be foolhardy.  Now we sit and wait for those sixty days to pass and whilst we do the world of eighteenth century New York is brought vividly to life for us.

Mr Smith is pleased to discover that coffee houses have made it to the new world and we spend much time in them with him observing the political factions of a truly new New York.  He falls in love, gets chased by a mob, escapes over rooftops, is arrested twice, fights a duel, performs in a play and we still don’t know who he is.  Hints and a tiny bits of information are dropped along the way, enough for you to ponder.

All is revealed just before the end and very satisfying it is too.  Golden Hill is a joyous romp through colonial New York.  We see the city through the eyes of a newcomer and in doing so get immersed not only in the geography but also the politics of the place.  I suspect that Golden Hill will be in Top 10 books for 2017, why not read it and see if it will make your top ten too.

DISCLAIMER:  Faber and Faber sent me a review copy via NetGalley in return for an honest review, in the mean time Mr CW had bought me copy too!  Thank you everybody.

GOLDEN HILL by Francis Spufford
Published by Faber and Faber
Paperback £8.99, Kindle

British Books Challenge 2017


Adventures in Modern Marriage

Do women crave sex as much as men?  That is the question at the centre of ADVENTURES IN MODERN MARRIAGE.   Three middle-aged couples, based in Sussex and Notting Hill, dance around each other in a week when the 2015 General Election takes place.  Not that this is a bed-hopping bonkbuster, no this is a considered look at love, ego and power.

Death also gets a look-in, as the cantankerous elderly mother of one of the characters hovers close to death.  Will she die?  Is it wrong to want her to die?  In the meantime her daughter, a journalist, gets a commission to write an article about women and sex.  She stumbles across a book that proposes that women are just as capable of irrational lust as men and indeed of acting on it.  What happens when they do and the double standards by which men and women are judged for infidelity provides one of the central themes.

Power and the loss of it is also larded through the story.  In the wide world we see Messieurs Cameron, Clegg and Milliband teetering on the brink of loss or glory, meanwhile our heroes grapple with the loss of job and potency.  Everything is beautifully observed, some of it is “laugh out loud” funny.  There were times when I want to shout at the characters to tell them not to be so stupid.

William Nicholson is an accomplished screenwriter (think Shadowlands), the way that he paints the scene is deft.  You always know what people look like, how a room is furnished and which way the car turns.  ADVENTURES IN MODERN MARRIAGE is the seventh book that he has written about these characters.  This is the first that I have read and at no point did I feel that I was late to the party and should have started at the beginning of the sequence.  I am, however, now keen to read the others.

DISCLAIMER:  I was given a preview copy of ADVENTURES IN MODERN MARRIAGE via NetGalley in return for an honest review.

Published by Quercus
Hardback £19.99, Kindle £9.99

British Books Challenge 2017

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