Book Review: ‘Golden Hill’ Is A Wonderfully Told Story

The spectacular first novel from acclaimed nonfiction author Francis Spufford follows the adventures of a mysterious young man in mid-eighteenth century Manhattan, thirty years before the American Revolution.

This story brings you back to the year 1746, a ship, the “Henrietta,” docks in New York’s harbor and a young man by the name of Mr. Smith arrives. And the adventure begins. He has a mission to accomplish, with not a lot of time to spare and even less wit or sense to match the minds of the bankers and merchants he has to deal with. We are drawn into a New York before the revolution and its people and streets are reflections of their once native countries. The back stories of the English, Dutch, and French are well told and realistic and author Francis Spufford’s research is meticulous. This was my first foray into the mind of Spufford and from the many glowing accolades the book has received, I didn’t quite know what to expect. I was not disappointed with the story and neither will you, Spufford has a descriptive sense not many writers are blessed with and he has the humor and wit to keep you reading.

He dazzles you, makes sly digs at the establishment, and his scenes of a street protest was spellbinding, the fires of anti-religion a sad reflection of present times. The New York of 1746 is well presented and you will like letting go and enjoy it. You don’t realize how slyly he has drawn you in until he has you, lock, stock, and barrel. This is a great read, hard at times to grasp the thinking, politically, and you are waiting as the whole shebang unravels to see if Smith can grow a pair and pull this escapade off. Shades of my childhood struggle with ‘Canterbury Tales,’ Chaucer, Spufford is not but an accolade in his direction that I can make a comparison.

The theatrical finale had me smiling, Spufford gets away with it because of the phenomenal yarn he has spun around you. A Terrific read and very highly recommended.

Now available in bookstores

Ann McDonald

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