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The Golden Child

3.54  ·  Rating Details  ·  295 Ratings  ·  43 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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Oct 15, 2014 Lynda rated it liked it
Shelves: kindle, fiction
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
Sep 22, 2012 Ann Herendeen rated it really liked it
Shelves: read-recently
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
Feb 03, 2010 Ali rated it it was amazing
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
Jun 30, 2014 Damaskcat rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
Richard Moss
Apr 26, 2016 Richard Moss rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2016
My latest foray with Fitzgerald was her first novel. Penelope Fitzgerald had to wait until she was almost 60 to see her first work of fiction published. What followed was a succession of works of genius which gathered awards and acclaim.

And although The Golden Child doesn't reach the heights of her later masterpieces, it does contain many of the qualities that make her so admired.

First, it's funny. More obviously and intentionally perhaps than later works, but her dry wit and ear for dialogue ar
Jan 25, 2014 Col rated it liked it
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
May 16, 2014 Machlis rated it liked it
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
Jun 06, 2016 Julie rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
The Golden Child was Penelope Fitzgerald's first book and is full of indications of the great things to come in her later novels. It's a deadpan comedy-cum-crime novel-cum-farce set in the (unnamed, but clearly described) British Museum as it hosts a major exhibition of priceless gold antiquities. The book (first published in 1977) was presumably inspired by the Tutankhamun exhibition of 1972, which I remember visiting as a small child. Along with the wicked character comedy, Fitzgerald has plen ...more
Feb 06, 2014 Johanne rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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....
This short novel by British author Penelope Fitzgerald, who started her writing career at age 69, was her first and is a thoroughly enjoyable, lighthearted satire. It pokes fun at the art world establishment, the grand museum, curators, critics, and art mavens, and comes in the form of a classic murder mystery. The golden child - the mummy of an African boy king - is the major exhibition event at an eminent London museum but the museums director, who also happens to be the archeologist who excav ...more
Dec 14, 2014 Jane rated it really liked it
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.
Kathy Reback
Apr 19, 2016 Kathy Reback rated it really liked it
This is a hilarious send-up of protecting one's turf, no matter the cost. A museum in London is staging a wildly popular traveling show of artifacts from Garamantia when a lowly junior officer discovers they are all fakes. Murder, mayhem, and the sophisticated wit of Penelope Fitzgerald ensue!
Apr 14, 2015 Amanda rated it liked it
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.
Janet Lynch
Aug 20, 2015 Janet Lynch rated it liked it
Shelves: fiction
I found this first novel of Fitzgerald’s, a complicated intrigue in a British museum displaying a King Tut-like exhibition, to be disappointing. Someone must have told her a novel requires plot, and in this she goes overboard, leaving little room for her brilliant characterizations, wit, and engaging dialogue of her other works.
Kathy Shuker
Sep 16, 2015 Kathy Shuker rated it really liked it
Smart with, at times, almost cruel observations of human behaviour, this book is a wonderfully witty satire on the museum world and its petty intrigues and jealousies. It's both funny and quite dark in places.
Jan 18, 2012 Sarah rated it liked it
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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Mar 14, 2015 Wendy rated it liked it
Jan 12, 2011 Genevieve rated it liked it
Shelves: fiction
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.
Jul 25, 2011 Kezia rated it really liked it
Shelves: contemporary
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.
Mar 31, 2012 Tim rated it really liked it
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.
Jan 03, 2016 M.K. rated it did not like it
I'm not sure why Penelope Fitzgerald is rated so highly - or perhaps I wasn't in the mood for a story about qwerky people employed at a British museum, many of them with difficult lives, others who are overly impressed with themselves. I chose not to finish this one.
Nov 20, 2015 Carol rated it liked it
Wanted to like...was sweetly British, and enjoyed, but mildly.
Jul 20, 2013 Ed rated it liked it
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.
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.
Jul 11, 2007 Kristen rated it really liked it
Shelves: fiction
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.
Feb 15, 2013 Rosie rated it it was ok
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
Jul 16, 2011 Melissa Mcavoy rated it liked it
Shelves: fiction, mystery
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
Aug 19, 2012 Raquel Martin rated it liked it
Shelves: read-in-2012
Interesting behind the scenes look at the museum world --humrous take on all the politics and departmental in-fighting.
The insanity of museum employees, well documented, with a thinly-veiled jab at ancient historians and archaeologists...
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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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