Golden Hill by Francis Spufford

One of the best novels I’ve read so far this year!

Golden Hill by Francis Spufford

‘By morning, the news was all around the town that a stranger had arrived with a fortune in his pocket.’

New York, Manhattan Island, November 1746.  A handsome young man from London, Mr Smith, arrives with a bill of exchange to the value of £1,000.   The bill is to be honoured – within 60 days – by Gregory Lovell, a merchant in Golden Hill Street, who owes this amount to the London company who wrote the bill.  It’s an enormous amount, and everyone in the town is interested in trying to learn more about Mr Smith.  Just who is this mysterious Mr Smith, and what does he intend to do with his fortune?  Where did he come from?  Is the bill genuine?  Mr Smith has to wait 60 days for his bill to be honoured: how will he fit into New York society during that period?  Will the merchants accept him; will they extend him credit?  Who will befriend him?

Every chapter provides an element of surprise, a twist which has the reader wondering what will happen next.  First there are the various adventures of Mr Smith, as well as the question as to how the bill was to be honoured given the scarcity of cash.  And then, just to complicate matters further, there’s a question over the validity of the bill.  Mr Smith’s circumstances are fluid to say the least.

Read this novel: enter the eighteenth century with its coffee shops and stratified society, enter a tale (or two) of derring-do, and wonder until the end whether our hero will survive, who he might be and what he is about.  To say more could spoil the read.

 

I enjoyed this novel, it’s both clever and entertaining.  While the ending came as a surprise, it is fitting as well as mostly satisfying.  Only mostly satisfying?  Well, some of the characters were still living on in my mind and I wanted to keep reading, to know what happened next.

This is Mr Spufford’s first novel.   I’ve read two of his books of non-fiction and thoroughly enjoyed them.

Note: My thanks to NetGalley and Faber & Faber Ltd. for providing me with a free electronic copy of this book for review purposes.

Jennifer Cameron-Smith

Adaminaby, 21/2/2017

If you look carefully into the distance, you’ll see a kangaroo hopping across the road.

I was surprised to see the kangaroo: it was just after 8am, and it wasn’t the kind of overcast cloudy day that often sees them hanging around the road after sunrise.  This kangaroo was lucky: it almost leapt in front of a ute (the dust is from the ute passing).  The kangaroo changed direction and waited a few seconds before trying again.

It was a beautiful morning for walking.  The temperature was just over 2 degrees when I set out.  There was a dusting of snow further up the ranges yesterday, but we are back to summer today.

Adaminaby, NSW. 20/2/2017

Mostly clear blue sky for this morning’s walk, but it was very windy.  Wind from the WSW at 30 kilometres an hour, with gusts over 40.  

I wondered about the wisdom of walking in shorts and a short-sleeved T shirt, but did it anyway.  I’m usually fairly warm by the time I make it to the Little River Road intersection.  The wind picked up on the way back, and I was pleased to get home.

 I love walking along this road. Much of the time, I could be the only person in the world.

A welcome cool summer day.  Today, it’s forecast to reach 21 degrees.  Tomorrow,  1 to 25 degrees.  Perfect for walking.