It is 1954 and thirteen-year-old Frank Gold, refugee from wartime Hungary, is learning to walk again after contracting polio in Australia. At the Golden Age Children's Polio Convalescent Home in Perth, he sees Elsa, a fellow patient, and they form a forbidden, passionate bond. The Golden Age becomes the little world that reflects the larger one, where everything occurs: love and desire, music, death, and poetry. It is a place where children must learn they're alone, even within their families.
Subtle, moving and remarkably lovely, The Golden Age evokes a time past and a yearning for deep connection, from one of Australia's finest and most-loved novelists.
The Golden Age has won the 2015 Prime Minister's Literary Award for Fiction, the 2015 Queensland Literary Award for Fiction, the 2015 NSW Premier's People's Choice Award (joint winner) and the 2015 Kibble Literary Award. It was shortlisted for the 2015 Miles Franklin Literary Award, the Stella Prize, ALS Gold Medal, the New South Wales Premier's Literary Awards: Christina Stead Prize for Fiction, the Asher Literary Award and the Australian Book Industry Awards Literary Fiction Book of the Year. Joan also won the 2015 Patrick White Award for a lifetime of outstanding contribution to Australian literature. In October 2015 she was named a State Living Treasure by the WA government.
APPLE BOOKS REVIEW
Glistening with atmosphere and beautiful detail, The Golden Age took our breath away. Inspired by a real home for children recovering from polio in the ‘50s, Joan London imagines a love story between two 12-year-old residents, Hungarian immigrant Frank Gold and the compassionate Elsa Briggs. This touching coming-of-age story cements London’s status as one of Australia’s most brilliant contemporary writers; she writes about universal themes with a dancer's elegance.
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.