I received an Advanced Review Copy of Golden Hill from Scribner via Netgalley.
Pub. Date: June 27th 2017
Author: Francis Spufford: An English author previously known for his many works of historical non-fiction.
“Golden Hill” was officially published today, June 27th! Get your copy here.
Have you ever imagined the historical secrets lurking under the skyscrapers of your city? The deals made, the duels fought, and the wars made? In Golden Hill, Francis Spufford does just so by mixing fiction with true history, creating a tale of suspense upon the backdrop of Pre-Revolutionary New York.
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?
As fast as a heist movie, as stuffed with incident as a whole shelf of conventional fiction, Golden Hill is both a novel about the 18th century, and itself a book cranked back to the novel’s 18th 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.
This is Fielding’s Tom Jones recast on Broadway – when Broadway was a tree-lined avenue two hundred yards long, with a fort at one end flying the Union Jack and a common at the other, grazed by cows.
Rich in language and historical perception, yet compulsively readable, Golden Hill has a plot that twists 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.
What I liked:
As someone who is very familiar with New York and its historical financial district, I absolutely loved the accurate historical depiction of the area. While reading, I could visualize the original Trinity Church, coffeehouses, cobblestone streets, and lanterns of the historical Wall Street area. On Golden Hill is beautifully written in an old style, reminiscent of the language that was actually used in early America. Descriptions truly bring the reader in to the new and mysterious world of New York right before the American Revolution. Nearly all of the events and characters mentioned in this novel actually existed, though the main plot is fictional. The book is suspenseful and pulls you in to a tale of riches and secrecy immediately.
What I disliked:
There was a lot going on at once in this book, such as: The issue of race and slavery, romance, revolution, trade, and religion. I really wish that Spufford had instead focused on developing one storyline and topic. Furthermore, the voice of this novel was undeniably male, though the female characters described were very interesting. I would have liked to learn more about what it was like to be a women in the 16th century through these characters, and less about the trade dealings of men. (But that’s just me?) I also wish that Spufford’s descriptions of race and slavery were more developed and in-depth.
Do I recommend Golden Hill?
Yes! I recommend Golden Hill to anyone interested in American history and to anyone who enjoys secrets and suspense. This novel is gorgeously written in a way that transports you to a different time and setting. It is a relatively quick read that constantly leaves the reader on a cliffhanger.
Other Reviews of Golden Hill:
“Francis Spufford has one of the most original minds in contemporary literature.”
“One is drawn ineluctably into the world of colonial New York from the first sentence of Golden Hill. Wonderfully written and entertaining.”
“Francis Spufford has long been one of my favourite writers of non-fiction; he is now becoming a favourite writer of fiction as well. Golden Hill is a meticulously crafted and brilliantly written novel that is both an affectionate homage to the 18th century novel and a taut and thoughtful tale.”
“I loved this book so much. Golden Hill wears its research with incredible insouciance and grace; a rollicking picaresque, it is threaded through with darkness but has a heart of gold.”