Set in a convalescent hospital for children with polio, ‘The Golden Age’ is a radiant novel that tells a deeply moving story about illness and recovery, about learning to navigate the unfamiliar, about embracing music, poetry, death and, most importantly, life.
Thirteen-year-old Frank Gold’s family has escaped from Hungary and the perils of World War II to the safety of Australia, but not long after their arrival Frank is diagnosed with polio. He is sent to a sprawling children’s hospital called the Golden Age, where he meets Elsa, the most beautiful girl he has ever seen. Frank and Elsa fall in love, fuelling one another’s rehabilitation, facing the perils of polio and adolescence hand in hand, and scandalising the prudish staff of the Golden Age.
Meanwhile, Frank and Elsa’s parents must cope with their changing realities. Elsa’s mother Margaret, who has sacrificed everything to be a perfect mother, must reconcile her hopes and dreams with her daughter’s sickness. Frank’s parents, transplants to Australia from a war-torn Europe, are isolated newcomers in a country that they do not love and that does not seem to love them. Frank’s mother Ida, a renowned pianist in Hungary, refuses to allow the western deserts of Australia to become her home. But her husband, Meyer, slowly begins to free himself from the past and integrate into a new society.
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“A universal meditation on nostalgia and hope, belonging and exile, love and loss, old world and new.”
“Joan London’s beautiful, assured third novel… is about displacement in its various guises. There is no sentimentality; instead she is concerned with understated emotion as well as the festering anger and shadows that cling to people.”
“This slim, potent novel… presents polio rehabilitation as a metaphor for postwar recovery.”