The Golden Age: A Novel

by Joan London

Paperback, 2016

Call number





Europa Editions (2016), 224 pages


This is a story of resilience, the irrepressible, enduring nature of love, and the fragility of life. From one of Australia's most loved novelists. He felt like a pirate landing on an island of little maimed animals. A great wave had swept them up and dumped them here. All of them, like him, stranded, wanting to go home. Perth, 1954.

User reviews

LibraryThing member lesleynicol
To begin with I didn't think I was going to like this book. The subject matter of kids in hospital didn't appeal to me but on further reading I really loved it. It examines the lives of a group of children aged from babies to about 13 who are undergoing rehab. in an old hotel called "The Golden Age" in Western Aust. in the 1950's. Having survived the horrors of having contracted Polio in the epidemic and their period of survival in hospital they must now endure further time away from their families and undergo extensive physio, exercise and training. This book is unusual as we see things from the child's point of view and realise what adjustments they had to make amid the realisation that life will never be the same and that they will always be "handicapped".. The main character is 13y.o .Frank, the son of Jewish/Hungarian refugees. His family has already endured the horrors of war-torn Europe and now must face the future with their only son having been stricken by polio. He becomes infatuated with another young teenager, Elsa and the pair form a loving and innocent bond. They cling to each other for support during this trying time only to have their friendship misconstrued by the authorities, who have them expelled and separated. Such was the understanding in those years and one wonders if it would be any different today. A very insightful book which much "food fore thought". We always gave thanks for those who survived this epidemic but probably did not give enough thought as to "how" their lives were affected afterwards.… (more)
LibraryThing member PhilipJHunt
This is a slice of life from a children's polio hosiptal in Perth in the early 1950s. We meet the kids, the staff and the families and enter into their struggles. It took me a while to get into this. Half way through I set it aside for a day and then returned. I was glad I did. For many pages there seems to be no moving plotline. It reads like a bunch of tenuously connected short stories. The writing is lovely, make no mistake, but where are we going? Then about half way in the various strands overlap and entwine quite satisfactorily. There is a quite tender love story, well a couple actually, the London evokes with great authenticity.… (more)
LibraryThing member COMReadersGroups
This is a story of resilience, the irrepressible, enduring nature of love, and the fragility of life. From one of Australia's most loved novelists.

He felt like a pirate landing on an island of little maimed animals. A great wave had swept them up and dumped them here. All of them, like him, stranded, wanting to go home.

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 Hospital 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. Where children must learn that they are alone, even within their families.

Written in Joan London's customary clear-eyed prose, The Golden Age evokes a time past and a yearning for deep connection. It is a rare and precious gem of a book from one of Australia's finest novelists.
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LibraryThing member mjlivi
The second last book in my quest to read the 2015 Stella Prize longlist. I wasn't hugely taken by London's previous novel, Gilgamesh, so I wasn't super excited to tackle this. Somewhat surprisingly, I loved it - a gorgeously written evocation of a 1950s children's polio rehabilitation centre in Perth, The Golden Age has a lot to say about love, family, independence and coming to terms with the hand life deals you. The supporting characters are rich and memorable (Frank's parents in particular), while the two teenagers at the centre of the plot feel a bit idealised. The writing is luminous and the sense of time and place effortlessly conveyed.

(The cover of the book is ludicrous though - there's no character who fits the demographic of the dude on the cover, and no train trips in the whole book. A bafflingly lazy bit of production.)
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LibraryThing member MaximWilson
I gave it 8/10 at our book club. I loved the style of writing, and gave it yo my 13 yo grandson to read , and he likes it too. I liked the medical aspect, the history of the eradication of polio, and the current status of that fight. Thinking of anti-vaccers gives me the horrors. I liked the lead to the poetry of Byron , and "The Bridge" by an American.… (more)
LibraryThing member siri51
Evocative story set in 1950's Perth hospital home for children recovering from polio. Frank and Elsa are young teenagers growing close and later 'expelled' for being found in the same bed. Beautifully written from many character's points of view it is quiet, poetic novel about a real place and time. The final chapter was somewhat unexpected having jumped forward many years - they didn't stay together.… (more)
LibraryThing member tangledthread
This an evocative story set primarily in Australia in the early 1950's. The effects of WWII are still resonating throughout the world and the specter of polio haunts every family during these epidemic years. The main characters are Frank (Ferec) and Elsa, two young adolescents in a residential rehab center in Perth, undergoing treatment as they recover from polio.

There are several parallel stories of exile through the book. These two young teens have been exiled from their families and school in the Golden Age rehab home. Frank's parents are war refugee's from Budapest. Several of the care providers in the Golden Age are also from away.

The author sets the tone through her descriptions of the environment and her well drawn characters. Although the story mainly involves Frank and Elsa, there are several sub-stories that enhance the plot and draw the reader into the narrative.

The writing is quiet and understated, reminiscent of Kent Haruf's style of writing. The author lovingly and charitably draws her characters, causing the reader the care about what happens to them.
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LibraryThing member bobbieharv
I thought I'd like this more than I did - found it a little slow, and the story seemed to trail off at the end. But it was an interesting depiction of the polio epidemic set in Perth, written mostly from the point of view of a boy and a girl.




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