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The Golden Child

3.58 of 5 stars 3.58  ·  rating details  ·  245 ratings  ·  34 reviews
Penelope Fitzgerald's first novel, THE GOLDEN CHILD, combines a deft comedy of manners with a classic mystery set in London's most refined institution -- the museum. When the glittering treasure of ancient Garamantia, the golden child, is delivered to the museum, a web of intrigue tightens around its personnel, especially the hapless museum officer Waring Smith. While prow ...more
Paperback, 192 pages
Published September 15th 1999 by Mariner Books (first published 1977)
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Lynda
This was Fitzgerald's first novel and it shows, I think. Though many of the hallmarks of her craft are in evidence there is little of the masterly restraint of her more mature novels. Nonetheless there is much to enjoy. The setting is a thinly disguised British Museum which is holding an exhibition of Garamantian artefacts which includes the Golden Child. As the exhibition opens to massive public interest a series of mysterious events begins to unfold. As usual Fitzgerald draws her characters wi ...more
Ann Herendeen
I had not heard of Penelope Fitzgerald (freely confessing my appalling American ignorance here) when I started reading The Golden Child. It took me a while to "understand" what I was reading: the first novel (from 1977) of a Booker Prize-winning novelist. At first it seemed to be an odd, old-fashioned whodunnit. As I read, I began to see a little more of what Fitzgerald was doing--telling a story that has elements of mystery and satire, and presented from the original, idiosyncratic point of vie ...more
Ali
I have only read two Penelope Fitzgerald novels before, and both were strange and quirky but enjoyable. Of the three that I have now read, this was definitely my favourite. It is odd and quirky, very funny in parts, and utterly absorbing.

In this story of the exhibtion of The Golden Child - Fitzgerald is poking gentle fun at the world of museum exhibitions. As the characters and situations she has created in this novel are eccentric and often absurd, but entirely delightful for all that. The poor
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Damaskcat
A prestigious London museum is hosting an exhibition - 'the Golden Child'. There are long queues to view the exhibits which have caught the country's imagination. Waring Smith, an employee of the museum, has had a hand in planning the exhibition but he suddenly finds himself caught up in something which is completely beyond his powers of comprehension and which will involve him in physical danger.

The author captures the politics and the feuds which go on in any large organisation extremely well
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Col
The International Solidarity of Queues!

.......I took the title of my review from one of the many wonderful phrases and sentences in this book! And I use it for two reasons - firstly I think it's just clever and so typical of the writing. Secondly, while this book is a real potpourri, one of its key messages is that we Brits really do queues brilliantly well!!!! It's one of our national talents - if only it was an Olympic event we'd be right up there among the medal contenders!

The queue in questi
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Machlis
Having read six of Fitzgerald's ten works of fiction, I got my hands on this first novel and find it of interest mostly in terms of showing her start as a writer. Although her concept here -- a cast of characters in the specialized social world of museum staff -- is similar to that of later books (a small village, the BBC, the London theater world, people living on houseboats) -- in this book her characters are mostly caricatures of certain scholarly/art world types whom I find hard to care much ...more
Johanne
I really enjoyed this. Nicely shot through with a dry humour it tells of dodgy goings on behind the scenes of an unnamed museum's blockbuster exhibition. Although the cold war & USSR references date it slightly its still well worth reading - & I'll never visit another British Museum blockbuster exhibition without wondering....
Jane
How could I not love this book? It focuses on the world I love, behind the scenes at a museum, and gently lampoons everything from the bolshie preparators to the smooth-as-cream director. A golden treasure, a murder in the library and all kinds of silly infighting between departments.
Pure heaven from start to finish.
Amanda
I suspect that this will be my least favorite of Fitzgerald's books because she clearly hadn't quite found her unique voice. Still I enjoyed it. The characters were entertaining if all slightly odd and the mystery was a fun romp. The ending was a little overdone but, why not, I guess.
Sarah
This book manages to combine both museum culture and cold war spy stories, which is an impressive achievement. I particularly enjoyed the episode in which a young museum curator travels to Moscow to get the opinion of a Russian scholar. I won't tell you what happens when he gets there, though I will say that it involves a circus.

I've read a number of Fitzgerald's novels, and I enjoy them. This is lighter than many of her others; it's almost a spoof of both spy novels and British organization no
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Tredyffrin Township Libraries
Book Selection for June 17, 2015.
Wendy
Delightful!
Genevieve
Not my favorite Fitzgerald--which is to say that it's still witty, wonderfully-written, and great with its characters, but there are a few elements that struck me as too broadly drawn, too parodic. I'm not sure if Fitzgerald is generally thought of as a realist--there are unreal or borderline elements in some of her other books--but the world of The Golden Child struck me as more paperweight, more clearly puppetry than her others, which didn't quite work for me. Still, a very entertaining tale.
Kezia
It's the classic 'boy meets girl, boy loses girl' story. Except the 'boy' is a stuffy London museum peopled with comically wacky funerary art and unglazed ceramics experts, stereotypical clerical workers, and nebbishy middle managers - and the 'girl' is a priceless archaeological find from a fictional African country. The first chapter is a bit rough to wade through, but it's a fast read thereafter. Worthwhile.
Tim
The Golden Child was Penelope Fitzgerald's first novel. It is set in an institution, like Human Voices (WWII BBC) and Gate of Angels (Cambridge), this time a museum, and is a mystery of sorts. While it starts slowly, once Waring Smith comes center stage it moves deliberately and sure-footedly. Not as intimate as The Blue Flower, Offshore, or The Beginning of Spring, it was still a funny and wistful book.
Ed
Unlike Fitzgerald's more literary fiction (I've read a number of her novels, and they are all spot-on, especially Gate of Angels), this attempt at a pure mystery novel was a little disappointing. Her use of elements of the absurd (the Russian circus clown, for example)or, perhaps, magical realism, detracted from the book for me. Still, a chance to read more Fitzgerald.
Amy
This was strange but lovely. It begins as a comedy of manners amongst the erudite staff at a British museum and turns into a madcap journey through Russia / possible espionage / more museum and art world intrigue (and possible murder). Sort of like Commencement, except the twist and storyline shifts were hilarious instead of terrible.
Jim M
A comedic and cryptic mystery set in a London museum.
Kristen
Not as good as The Blue Flower or The Bookshop but still engrossing. Fitzgerald's writing is excellent and the story is unpredictable and entertaining. I guess you could call it a murder mystery in a museum. A fun read.
Rosie
This is Fitzgerald's attempt at a mystery novel. I'm bores by mysteries in general so did not like this book at all. None of the things I value about Fitzgerald's writing were present here.
Melissa Mcavoy
Actually pretty close to four stars. This was a fun mystery set in a British museum, but feels a bit like a parody. Perfect if you want something lightweight
Raquel Martin
Interesting behind the scenes look at the museum world --humrous take on all the politics and departmental in-fighting.
Lucy
The insanity of museum employees, well documented, with a thinly-veiled jab at ancient historians and archaeologists...
Mary Crabtree
This is a favorite author of mine. Fitzgerald really knows how to write mystery.
A slim but rewarding read!
Teresa
Stunning writing. Humerous satire of the museum world. Fitzgerald in superb form.
Deb
A British mystery with a bit of archaeology and feuding museum staff
John
I'm a big fan of this author, and this work is my favorite of hers!
Diana Bloom
Marvelously funny treatment of museum politics in London.
Raymond
Not her best...feels a bit Masterpiece Theaterish.
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Penelope Fitzgerald was an English novelist, poet, essayist and biographer. In 2008, The Times included her in a list of "The 50 greatest British writers since 1945". In 2012, The Observer named her final novel, The Blue Flower, as one of "the ten best historical novels".

Fitzgerald was the author of nine novels. Her novel Offshore was the winner of the Booker Prize. A further three novels — The B
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More about Penelope Fitzgerald...
The Bookshop The Blue Flower Offshore The Gate of Angels The Beginning of Spring

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“He was not trained in conservation - he was, after all, no more than an archaeologist - a digger!” 0 likes
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