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Golden Hill

3.79  ·  Rating details ·  9,739 ratings  ·  1,404 reviews
New York, a small town on the tip of Manhattan Island, 1746.

One rainy evening in November, a handsome young stranger fresh off the boat pitches up at a counting-house door in Golden Hill Street: this is Mr. Smith, amiable, charming, yet strangely determined to keep suspicion simmering. For in his pocket, he has what seems to be an order for a thousand pounds, a huge amount
Hardcover, 344 pages
Published June 2nd 2016 by Faber & Faber
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Francis Spufford She says, like a humble person addressing a lord or a prince, 'Are you the one I have been waiting for?'

He says, like a brother talking to a sister, '…more
She says, like a humble person addressing a lord or a prince, 'Are you the one I have been waiting for?'

He says, like a brother talking to a sister, 'I am the one you have been waiting for.'(less)
David Gilbert Finished it now and it's worth reading but not the greatest book. It's writing style and sence of period are its best feature …moreFinished it now and it's worth reading but not the greatest book. It's writing style and sence of period are its best feature (less)

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Average rating 3.79  · 
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Feb 02, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: netgalley
The year is 1746 when a young Englishman Richard Smith, arrives in New York with a bill of exchange to the value of £1,000, an enormous amount of money at the time. He seeks out a trader by the name of Lovell, on Golden Hill Street, who has 60 days to honour the bill.

Exactly who Smith is and what his intentions are is unclear, not just to the inhabitants of New York, but to us the readers, however we're not privy to this information until the end of the book. The mystery compels the reader ever
A wonderful and surprising book indeed. This is what a book should be, full of unexpected tales and events, up until the very end. Sparkling, challenging, daring. The fifth star (or say o,5, I rate this book 4.5) is lacking because I did at times find some of the reading of this book challenging. But I say to everyone, persist, it is well worth the effort!
A great history tale in the beginning of New York's existence, interesting to read how NY started out, and of course the events surrounding t
Jun 20, 2017 rated it it was ok
All 10 of my friends that read Golden Hill gave it stellar reviews with an average of 4.50. As a result, I had high expectations from this novel, especially because the blurb sounded to be exactly what I love about historical fiction. Unfortunately, it did not work for me as much as I wanted. I enjoyed GH well enough to give it almost three stars but no more. However, I can understand why other readers might love it more than I did.

The most important aspect for me in a novel is the writing, the
Francis Spufford has written a brilliant and cracking historical yarn for his fictional debut. It is set in the New York of 1746, it has a population of 7ooo and, whilst unlike the great city of today, the seeds of its future are indisputably present. An Englishman, Richard Smith, arrives in New York and on him he has a £1000 bill of exchange, a veritable fortune at that time. He is a man of mystery to the reader until the end of the book. He is greeted with suspicion and questions from the loca ...more
Angela M

There are many glowing reviews of this both in the press and on Goodreads and I really thought I would love this story. I must admit that I found it less than interesting in spite of the secrecy surrounding Mr. Smith's business in New York, a robbery, a sexual indiscretion, and a duel. It wasn't until the very end that I felt any emotional connection to what was happening and it just wasn't soon enough for me to say this was a meaningful read for me. I was intrigued a couple at times - when we f
Diane S ☔
Jan 21, 2016 rated it really liked it
Patience is a virtue they say and I have to say after reading the first half of this novel, I was feeling very virtueous. The first part sets the scene of a New York, little more than twenty years before the revolution, and is extremely detailed. Many, many words but it does do the job, aquainting the reader thoroughly and meticulously with the political factions, the merchants, the nationalities and the extreme dislke of the French as well as the various religious affiliations, and almost every ...more
Jun 04, 2017 rated it liked it
Shelves: netgalley
I wish I liked Golden Hill more than I did. I am a tough customer when it comes to historical fiction, especially books set prior to 1900. I don't like books that romanticize the past or books that imprint contemporary sensibilities on historical characters. Golden Hill doesn't suffer from either of these flaws. In fact, it has a lot going for it. It's extremely well written and it does a great job giving life to to New York in the mid 1700s. But the story didn't really hold my interest until th ...more
Sep 10, 2017 added it
Shelves: 2017, echoes
Having finished this book two months since, and having perused a vast quantity of printed works in the interval, recalling the story of Mr S— and his adventures in New-York in 1746 presents a considerable challenge. Were I to rely solely on my recollection of the persons and events contained within the narrative, this account had been ended before it begun, I retained so little memory of it.
An obligation to reread the early chapters was therefore felt, and having acted upon it, memory deigned t
Dec 15, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Blunder upon blunder; nothing but blunders; half a hundred blunders.

4.5 stars. Fantastic! New York, 1746. Population 7,000. Loved this book. Is it a comedy? A tragedy? A farce? A mystery? All of this and more.
Mr Smith lands in New York and stirs up a veritable hornet's nest of trouble in the close knit community. We the reader get to witness the trials and tribulations of Mr. Smith's short time there.

This book has a fabulous plot twist that put a wide smile on my face. And to cap it all, it was
What a surprise! What started out as possibly a light-hearted romp turned out to be a completely absorbing story of New York in 1746, thirty years before the Revolutionary War. It is written in the language of the time, with some simplification of heavy Dutch accents for the English language readers, and I don’t think I ever noticed a false note. It sounds as if it was written then.

The narrator says at the end (and it’s not a spoiler) that “I, who did not know what Mr Smith was thinking, lend
Jan 22, 2017 rated it really liked it
Look Back in Anger

America has always been an angry place. And violent because it is angry. The order of precedence is important. Angry people are unpredictable, not only in their violence but in their non-violent moments. This is the central theme in Spufford's novel about 18th century New York City, reprised most explicitly in the most recent American elections. Golden Hill is a sort of retrospective prediction. There never was a moment of the American ideal's ideal existence.

The focus of Spuff
Jun 06, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: netgalley
It's been a really long time since I read The Sot Weed Factor by John Barth. But this book immediately reminded me of it. Specifically, the ability to capture the language of the time. Not just in conversation, but the entire tone of the book. The joy here truly is the language. Spufford has a gift for description.
The book begins with Mr. Smith having arrived from London in New York City, 1746. He has a note with him for £1,000, a princely sum in those days. He refuses to tell anyone the purpos
mark monday
A certain young Englishman named "Smith" travels to the clean yet rather barbaric small town of New York, located on the tip of Manhattan Island, circa 1746. He has a certain agenda and a certain amount of riches at his disposal. Or does he? The question of his wealth is one of many such questions. And what exactly is his agenda? And background? And motivations? Various new New Yorkers are both eager yet full of dread to discover the secrets beneath this charismatic and chameleonic stranger's pl ...more
Peter Boyle
I love nothing more than a story which catches me unawares. Early on in this dazzling historical novel, Francis Spufford sets a mystery in motion that absolutely compels us to read on, and whose unexpected solution is not revealed until the final pages. Along the way there are twists that left me slack-jawed with astonishment and grinning in delight. It is the most fun I have had with a book in a long time.

The setting is New York, the year 1746, and Richard Smith is the enigma at the heart of it
(4.5) Just brilliant. You’ll never doubt for a moment that you are in 1746 New York – an English colony with a heavy Dutch influence, and slavery still the standard. The novel opens suddenly as twenty-four-year-old Richard Smith arrives from London with a promissory note for £1000, an astounding sum for the time. He won’t explain how he came by the money or what he intends to do with it, but the order seems to be legitimate. This puts the merchant Mr. Lovell in rather a bind, because that kind o ...more
Reread Jan 21 for a discussion in the 21st Century Literature group. I don't feel the need to change my 2017 review.

It is hard to believe that this wonderfully picaresque romp through 18th century New York is Spufford's first novel. It manages to echo and gently parody many of the tropes of 18th century fiction, while mixing it with enough hindsight to make it appeal to a modern audience, and despite the richness of the language it soon becomes a genuine page-turner.

The story follows an English
The Colonial
Aug 22, 2019 rated it really liked it
Non-fiction author Francis Spufford has daringly strayed from familiar territory and embarked upon his first work of fiction, and he unquestionably proves an outstanding novelist by bringing his rich knowledge of the mid-eighteenth century to the audience—depicting a lovable protagonist that is full of both wit and intrigue. Altogether, there are certain works of historical fiction that just happen to miss their mark and following, whether by spending too much time engrossed in facts or leaving ...more
Leslie Ray
Oct 10, 2017 rated it it was ok
I had such high hopes for this book as I thought it would be really good historical fiction. As it was, I could barely get through it but finished it as it was the only book I brought with me on the plane. It would have been better to have known the big "secret" up front and by the time I found out, I didn't care anymore. All in all, a big disappointment. ...more
Paul Bryant
Dec 04, 2019 rated it liked it
Shelves: novels
What the reviews of this book never seem to say is that for the first TWO THIRDS the story is : a guy goes to New York to conduct a murky financial transaction and gets mixed up in an amateur theatrical production of a play called Cato by Joseph Addison. Put it that way and it don’t sound too appetising. Okay, there is a bit of a ding dong earlier on, where a burly butcher boy nearly gets to wear our hero’s guts as a kneckerchief, but otherwise it’s all a bit nice style Mr Spufford, I like the c ...more
Jul 16, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Riffing on Quote from Novel (updated 2/15):
Females as Fruits, Foods and Foliage (Sexism in Storytelling and Society)

Golden Hill is well-done, enjoyable and creative in a way I cannot disclose without spoiling it. Some might find it gimmicky. I liked its tribute by similarities to the English novels of the late 18th century.

I was struck by the below passage and started thinking how females have been subtly and not so subtly denigrated, demeaned and objectified by repeated (and mostly accepted) co
Roman Clodia
Mar 09, 2017 rated it it was ok
This is a book for you if you enjoy long (long) beautifully written descriptions and an extremely meandering narrative that isn't overly interested in getting to its destination. It does have one, and one that is poignant and simultaneously unbelievable - one that is based on 21st century concerns and ideals rather than those of the 18th century, although that's fine, of course, in a contemporary novel. All the same, I struggled with this book and just couldn't love it in the way that I expected ...more
Jun 22, 2017 marked it as abandoned-on-hold
Ok, so this is naughty of me.
Probably, Golden Hill deserves more than the 80 pages I have given it but I feel like I am wading through a jumble of words and not taking anything in. I am getting that same twitchy feeling I had while attempting The Luminaries , something to do with a failure of me as a reader to fully accept the mode of historical pastiche on offer.
Judging by plenty of reviews here, I might well be wrong and great frolics and adventures are, no doubt, on the way but I guess m
Mar 04, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Published in 2016, Golden Hill: A Novel of Old New York is a swashbuckling debut novel by British author, Francis Spufford. It is recipient of the Costa First Novel Award, the Ondaatje Prize and the Desmond Elliott Prize. I am not typically a reader of historical fiction but I am impressed by Spufford’s credible creation of 18th century New York set in the turbulent days before the American Revolution. It is imaginative period drama told in a narrative voice and written correspondence that are ...more
Charles Finch
Sep 30, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Maybe my favorite book I've read so far in 2017. A perfect, whip-smart evocation of mid 18th-century New York. Incredibly suspenseful, smart, funny. Couldn't have loved it more. ...more
Jul 21, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 2017
What rollicking fun to read. The pacing is a touch bit uneven but that is my only criticism.

Really, I could have spent another several months in 1746 New York with our feckless chameleon of a narrator, Mr. Smith. So many books these days are just bloated, but this was one I didn't want to end. And so many historical novels either are filled with bloopers or wear their research creakily and showily, like a heavy suit of armor, but I believed in this recreation of colonial New York and trusted i
Aug 20, 2017 rated it really liked it
If you like talky British books and/or historical fiction, this is your ticket. Francis Spufford takes us back to pre-Revolutionary New York, where one of the seven (ten, is it?) basic plots is used -- a stranger comes to town -- to good effect. In this case, it's a certain Brit named Smith come from Jolly Olde to collect big bucks from wealthy merchants in the yet-young and Not-So-Big Apple.

None of the colonists know what to make of this guy, who certainly relishes his role, and all manner of a
May 09, 2017 rated it liked it
Recommends it for: BBC Radio Listeners
Recommended to Bettie by: Laura

Description: New York, a small town on the tip of Manhattan Island, 1746. One rainy evening, a charming and handsome young stranger, fresh off the boat from England, pitches up to a counting house on Golden Hill Street, with a suspicious yet compelling proposition. He has an order for a thousand pounds in his pocket that he wishes to cash. But can he be trusted?

This is New York in its infancy, a place where a young man with a fast tongue can invent him
"The impetus of the tide was lost in the width of the water, and they drifted onward, only, across a surface as steady as metal, as well as having its colour, while the crew hoisted more sail, to catch the little cats' paws of breeze that came wrinkling and dabbing the water, scuffing the water as they touched it, from silver into pewter." If you don't enjoy sentences like that, stay away from this book. There is some very flashy writing in this book, and lots of good period details, but ultimat ...more
Colleen Fauchelle
Feb 14, 2019 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2019
Oh dear this is going to shock my book club friends, the friend who chose this story thought I would love this and I didn't. Now we score out of 10 so I give this a 5 out of 10 which looks better than a 2.5 out of 5. I liked half the story but I felt it rattled on to much and I kept thinking Oh do get on with it.
Richard Smith arives off the boat into New York with a 1,000 pound bill that needs conformation before it can be paid out. He quickly becomes the talk of the city - can he be trusted or
Joy D
Richard Smith arrives in New York from London in 1746 with a note of exchange for one thousand pounds. The local merchant writes to England to verify that the note is authentic. Smith will not reveal the nature of his venture, so he becomes a target for rumors. Is he wealthy? Is he a fraud? Is he a spy? While waiting for confirmation, Smith becomes a magnet for trouble.

There’s something here for everyone: a bit of tragedy, comedy, romance, drama, and lots of escapades. Our hero finds himself inv
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21st Century Lite...: Golden Hill - Background/General (no spoilers) 11 44 Jan 05, 2021 08:58AM  
Play Book Tag: [Poll Ballot] Golden Hill by Francis Spufford - 3 stars 3 11 Apr 05, 2020 12:49PM  
Golden Hill, Esil, Angela and Diane 33 29 Jun 08, 2017 04:41AM  
Goodreads Librari...: Page count missing 3 28 Dec 23, 2016 09:56AM  

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Spufford began as a writer of non-fiction, though always with a strong element of story-telling. Among his early books are I May Be Some Time, The Child That Books Built, and Backroom Boys. He has also edited two volumes of polar literature. But beginning in 2010 with Red Plenty, which explored the Soviet Union around the time of Sputnik using a mixture of fiction and history, he has been drawing ...more

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“Life is a mess of accident, I find.” 3 likes
“He laid his white right hand tidily atop his white left hand, on the tabletop. Smith smiled appreciatively, but still declined to come out to play. Septimus tapped the toe of his shoe on the floor. Tap-tap-tap: a foot tutting.” 1 likes
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