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The Golden Age

3.78  ·  Rating details ·  2,704 ratings  ·  354 reviews
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
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Paperback, 256 pages
Published August 1st 2014 by Random House Australia
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Average rating 3.78  · 
Rating details
 ·  2,704 ratings  ·  354 reviews


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Jill
Aug 05, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: coming-of-age
If someone were to have told me that The Golden Age was written in 1954 – the time of its setting – I would have believed them. The book has the tone of a classic, with the potential of rediscovery upon future readings.

There are no bells and whistles here. The writing is spare but powerful, carefully calibrated to reveal but not lead the reader. I often separate books into warm (those that touch the heart) and cool (those that touch the brain). On that continuum, I’d place this book at “cool-ish
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Mary
At the ferry jetty he turned right into Barrack Street, walked up past the Supreme Court Gardens, across St Georges Terrace. This was the city they’d been offered, and had accepted. They were safe here, but even now, at rush hour, the wide streets felt empty. That was the bargain. He’d left his city and would never return.

How short-lived gratitude was!

It was like this. Budapest was the glamorous love of his life who had betrayed him. Perth was a flat-faced, wide-hipped country girl whom he’d bee
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Michael Livingston
Dec 04, 2014 rated it really liked it
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), ...more
Brenda
Frank Gold, along with parents Ida and Meyer arrived from Hungary as refugees fleeing a war torn country. Their original hope was to go to America but an earlier ship was leaving for Australia from Vienna where they were waiting. They found it hard to settle into their new country, Ida especially – New Australians and their funny accents were the butt of many jokes. In 1954 when Frank contracted polio and was placed into isolation, their shock and devastation was great.

When Frank was transferre
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Jennifer (JC-S)
‘Once you get used to your condition, he said, your imagination becomes free again.’

The Golden Age is set in a convalescent home for children who were victims of poliomyelitis in Perth, Western Australia in the early 1950s. (The Golden Age Convalescent Home for Polio Children which operated in Leederville from 1949 to 1959, really existed. It was once a hotel, and has since been demolished.) This novel tells the story of a twelve year boy, Frank Gold. Frank and his parents Ida and Meyer were Hun
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Carolyn

What struck me most about this book is that although it is dealing with children struck down by the terrible polio epidemic of the 1950s it is a quiet and joyous story. For Frank Gold, recently arrived in Australia from post WWII Hungary and on the cusp of adolescence it should be a horrific time in his life. But Frank is resilient and resourceful and relishes the sudden independence from his parents and the cares of the world. "The Golden Age", the children's convalescent hospital of the title
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Rebecca
(3.5) The Golden Age was a real children’s polio hospital in Western Australia, but London has peopled it with her own fictional cast. In 1953–4, Frank Gold and Elsa Briggs, polio patients aged 12 going on 13, fall in love in the most improbable of circumstances. “The backs of their hands brushed as they walked side by side on their crutches. Their bloodstreams recharged by exercise and fresh air, they experienced a fiery burst of pleasure.”

Frank is much the more vibrant character thanks to his
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Amanda - Mrs B's Book Reviews
Dec 01, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2017-books
*https://mrsbbookreviews.wordpress.com
From time to time I like to read a book from my signed collection shelf. These are books that are on my ‘keeps’ shelf. The Golden Age is a book that has been sitting on my special ‘keeps’ book cabinet since I met the author Joan London back at a Stories on Stage author in 2015. I recall enjoying the author event given by Joan, to mark the release of her much anticipated third book, The Golden Age. What struck me most about the author talk and the book itself
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Peter Devenish
Sep 20, 2016 rated it it was amazing
I seldom comment on why I rate a book, probably because I'm basically lazy, but I feel I must comment on this beautifully written story by the Western Australian writer, Joan London. It is set in a tragic time when the blight of a polio epidemic struck. But it is not a tragic story, rather one of love and hope - love in its several forms and hope for the future, varying with each character. The locale I know intimately; the era is my own; and I relate to the polio epidemic personally because a l ...more
Kaylene
Meh... I'm abandoning this book half-way through as it wasn't holding my interest and was a bit blah for me. I kept going long after I wanted to stop as the reviews have been glowing. I began to think is there something wrong with me, am I not getting something here?? But it has not put me off reading any of her other books. ...more
Lisa
May 19, 2017 rated it liked it
Shelves: australian-reads
An extremely easy read. Gorgeous prose.
Dillwynia Peter
Nov 25, 2014 rated it really liked it
This book was for my local library book club.
The main theme for me in this one is all the main characters change to become “new” Australians. In the case of Frank & his parents, they are Hungarian migrants that escaped the Jewish extermination thru deception. They were professionals in Budapest & are now doing menial jobs in their new life in Perth. In the case of the children, they are all severely affected by polio & are learning to walk again. The active lifestyles they once had are gone, and
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Amanda
Apr 22, 2015 rated it did not like it
I don't think I've ever given a book such a low rating, but I can't even pretend to have liked this book and am abandoning it before finishing.

London is a WA writer and has won a healthy swag of gongs for her work. I read this novel as part of my quest to get to know some of the authors in Adelaide for Adelaide Writers Week, otherwise I might not have picked it up - pity, that.

I have no issue with the dreamy pace of the book or the setting and sense of place, but I have loads of issue with plent
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Shannon
Joan London's The Golden Age came highly recommended by reviewers taking part in the Australian Women Writers Challenge, it's a short, quick read at a mere 240 pages, but I think it's a book that needs to be read in just a sitting or two; with my constant interruptions, The Golden Age failed to connect with me. I loved the premise, about children struggling to recover from polio in Perth in the 1950s - a sense of time and place is something I always look for, and found it here. But I think the a ...more
Julie
Sep 01, 2014 rated it really liked it
Glows with beautiful language
Sharp edged nostalgia but a nebulous narrative


There was a lot to love. London is a poetic, visual writer. Her prose is sharp. Without waxing lyrical, she sets the scene vividly. I loved her commentary on the Royal Visit (the photographed flowers, the framed letter). I felt I could see and breath-in the Perth of the '50's that she pictured so clearly for me. Many memories from my own golden childhood were tickled in the narrative from Argonauts to Choo Choo bars (thou
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Kimbofo
Dec 31, 2015 rated it liked it
Shelves: 2016-reviews
It seems remarkable that poliomyelitis (otherwise known as polio or infantile paralysis), which has almost been eradicated from the world thanks to the development of a vaccine in the 1950s, was so prevalent just a few generations ago. In the 20th century, there were major outbreaks of this incurable infectious disease, which caused paralysis in infants and children, in Europe, the USA and Australia.

One of those outbreaks was in Perth, Western Australia, in the early 1950s. The outbreak was so b
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Toni
Nov 01, 2016 rated it it was ok
This book/story was way too weak/shallow for me. There were no good character build ups nor story lines that were very much interesting which made the book almost boring. This was a 'translation' from Australian to English so I can't imagine that a lot was lost on the translation. The ending seemed to the last thought up for the novel - a quick tie up with no substance to it. It was supposed to be a love story between two young teens who were in a polio rehab in the early 50s but the love story ...more
Irene
Oct 28, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: library-book
Walt Whitman's words on page 186, distinctly resonate throughout The Golden Age. Historically inspired fiction at its best.

“Not I, nor anyone else can travel that road for you.
You must travel it by yourself.
It is not far. It is within reach.
Perhaps you have been on it since you were born, and did not know.
Perhaps it is everywhere - on water and land.”
― Walt Whitman, Leaves of Grass
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Jennifer
Jan 28, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2017, softfruit
I'm so surprised to see that this is a recent release. It reads like a classic. The story centers around a convalescent home for children with polio in 1950's Australia. The writing is excellent and the characters are fully formed. I loved that Frank would walk into a room and feel that a poem was there as if poetry was in the air around us but you have to coax it on to the page. I will definitely be looking for more from Joan London. ...more
Erin
I liked this book, but I didn’t love it. It was perfectly enjoyable while reading it, but it wasn’t earth shattering, and I’ve barely thought of it in the time since I finished it.

I did enjoy the pace though, it actually made me feel like I was right there in Perth on a lazy hot summer’s day in the 1950’s.
Lesley Moseley
Aug 25, 2016 rated it really liked it
Not sure why this book showed as unread, as I clearly remember reading it. I too suffered from Polio in the early 50's and the descriptions brought back strong memories. Very real emotions, and all I can say, I loved it. ...more
Benjamin Farr
Jan 28, 2016 rated it it was ok
Shelves: 2016
One of the most mediocre books I've read in a long time. How it won so many awards is beyond me. The ending was just pitiful and somehow made a pretty ordinary book even worse. ...more
Chris
Jan 26, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Do like what I did, go into this book not knowing a thing. You won't be sorry. Beautifully written. ...more
Kim
In the midst of the Perth polio pandemic in the early 1950s, a young Hungarian WW2 refugee contracts polio and discovers within himself the heart of a poet. In the unlikely place of a rehab hospital called The Golden Age, he finds his delicate muse and becomes devoted to her with all the intensity that young love musters from shaky beginnings.
More heart warming than heart breaking, surprisingly compelling and told so incredibly clearly that I felt I was there.
A must read.
Jillwilson
Feb 26, 2015 rated it liked it
Maybe our memories of childhood are more sensory than memories of adulthood. Maybe they are more fragmentary, minutely focused. Time seems unbounded, endless. I think this idea is part of the reason the book is called “The Golden Age.” It’s not about nostalgia but about looking back on a time that no longer exists. Perth in the 1950’s is the setting of most of this novel. The main characters are Frank and Elsa, on the cusp of adolescence, both afflicted with polio and living in The Golden Age, a ...more
Kate
Aug 16, 2014 rated it it was amazing
“What had been temporary had become settled. What had seemed like the end of the world had become the centre.”

I described Joan London’s The Golden Age to a friend as a ‘quiet’ book. And it is. Quietly brilliant.

This isn’t a book with a plot that knocks you over or language that demands your attention. Instead, the characters creep into your heart, win your admiration. London’s words are plain but poetic – I found myself re-reading passages and thinking, “Isn’t that just perfection?”.

“His parents
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Lisa
Oct 23, 2014 rated it really liked it
Shelves: australia, c21st
There is an elegiac, melancholy tone to this novel. It was one of those books that I looked forward to reading each night, and yet I hesitated too. Joan London’s story-telling is both vivid and unsentimental and I feared that a character I had come to care about might not survive the pages left to read.

I think that I felt this uncharacteristic anxiety because the book is set in a polio hospital and it brought back childhood memories of other – slightly older – children that I knew who had fallen
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Maureen Helen
Jan 13, 2015 rated it really liked it
In this gem of a novel, Joan London has captured a microcosm of life in Perth Western Australia at the height of the poliomyelitis epidemics in the 1940s and 1950s.

The novel is mostly set in a convalescent home for children who had been victims of polio and who could not return to their families for a variety of reasons. The home, the Golden Age, actually existed as an annex of the Princess Margaret Hospital in Perth.

Joan London's writing depiction of the lives of the children and their parent
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Jenny
Nov 29, 2014 rated it it was amazing
From SMH best reads of 2014.
This book lived up to my expectations. A most interesting read about a period of history that I knew very little about.

This story has stayed with me throughout the year. It's the one book I've recommended more than any others in 2015 thus I've up graded it to 5 stars. Resonance rewarded.
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Mack
May 02, 2020 rated it liked it
This was a quiet novel I reflected on deeply. It is set in a home for victims of polio in Perth and I enjoyed the familiarity of Newcastle street in the 1950’s. Frank Gold is a 12 year old boy who contracted polio in Australia, the child of Hungarian refugees, Ida and Meyer. The book tells you a lot about the aloneness of victims of polio at that time and what people don’t understand about having a disability. It is what is inside that truly matters.
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Play Book Tag: The Golden Age by Joan London - 5* 7 16 Jan 22, 2021 01:27AM  

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Joan London is an Australian author of short stories, screenplays and novels.

She graduated from the University of Western Australia having studied English and French, has taught English as a second language and is a bookseller.

She lives in Fremantle, Western Australia, with her husband Geoff.

Joan London was the youngest of four sisters.

A baby boomer, she and her husband, Geoff, did the mandatory
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“I have to find myself
A place where I can breathe.
That's where poetry lives
In the oldest part of us.”
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“Something had been taken away from him in the war, against his will, and he would never be the same. Years in labour camps, in mountains, in salt mines: only solitude was natural to him now. Some part of him was terminally tired. He was beyond intimacy. The pretence at normality, the weight of the past, the unreality of the days here had exhausted him.” 2 likes
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