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The Golden Child

3.55  ·  Rating details ·  416 ratings  ·  62 reviews
Penelope Fitzgerald's 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 prowling the ...more
Paperback, 189 pages
Published September 15th 1999 by Mariner Books (first published 1977)
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Jul 06, 2018 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
2.5 stars

If you’re old enough, you will remember the King Tut craze. (And the Steve Martin song inspired by it.) I was a junior in high school when we were taken on school buses to stand in line for hours, snapping photos of each other, as well as of a fake pyramid and a painted “Nile River” that wound around the outside of the museum, until we could file past the relics, which I’m guessing we couldn’t take photos of since I have none. The waiting took hours longer than seeing the actual exhibit
Sep 26, 2016 rated it it was ok
This is the second of Fitzgerald's books I've read and I didn't enjoy it any more than the first. To me, she tries to write in a similar style to Jane Gardam but it just doesn't work for me. I forced myself to read more than I wanted to and there's no point in that. This sort of twee English eccentricity just becomes annoying after a while.
Mar 28, 2013 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 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
May 22, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Regular readers of my blog may well be aware of my fondness for the work of Penelope Fitzgerald. I’ve been making my way through her novels, not always in order of publication, over the past few years. The Golden Child (1977) was her first novel, a hugely entertaining tale of internal politics, mystery and mayhem, all set amid the most British of institutions, a prestigious London museum.

The museum in question, a thinly veiled version of the British Museum, is hosting an exhibition of precious t
Jul 26, 2018 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: humor
Utterly, delightfully absurd.
Apr 18, 2017 rated it liked it
An odd little book, about an exhibition at a thinly disguised British Museum. Very much of its time and not without its small pleasures.
Jan 31, 2010 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
Jennifer Kepesh
Jul 27, 2018 rated it really liked it
I think that any absurd book is going to be loved or hated, and I have certainly hated my share of absurd books (notably, A Confederacy of Dunces, and The Sellout, neither of which I could finish because they were far too puerile for me.) Well this book is completely absurd,, and I thought it was hilarious and it endeared me even more to Penelope Fitzgerald. One thing I love about this book is that, in the middle of all its nuttiness, there is the truth of the way that a big museum is--that almo ...more
Vel Veeter
Jul 14, 2017 rated it liked it
Shelves: cbr-9
This is not based on the weird ass Eddie Murphy movie from the mid 80s with that weird haunted sword or pipe or whatever it was.

Instead this is a kind of mystery, kind of comedy of manners taking place in a Natural History museum the night before a huge new opening. In this novel, several key figures circulate around the opening of a new exhibit that will introduce the world to the collected findings about an ancient civilization: Garamantia.

It has old burial vessels, pots, a strange hieroglyphi
Matt Williams
Jan 08, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
The Golden Child is two novels for the price of one. You have the first novel, a scorching satire of bureaucracy and hierarchy, and the sort of toxic humanity that's the same today as it was when it was written in 1977. It's full of fun jokes, gallows humor, perfectly-captured exasperation, and is really quite well-written. Our protagonist, a hapless minor functionary at a museum exhibiting a King-Tut-inspired exhibition of archaeological finds from a fictional country, is subject to an almost p ...more
Aug 21, 2017 rated it really liked it
This book started off a bit slow for me but toward the middle and end the pace picked up significantly and I couldn't put it down. It is my 4th favorite of her novels that I've read. Not because the characters will be particularly memorable for me but because of the overall feeling I sustained while reading it: a sort of pervading bemusement mixed with concern for the put-upon protagonist, and, in the end, a huzzah for his success (of sorts). In the "About the Author" bit at the end of this book ...more
Jan 21, 2019 rated it really liked it
Interesting. I felt like the writer was trying to convey some of the fanfare and commercialism of the traveling museum exhibits, such as Tutankhamen. This book, explores through a small golden infant pharoahs and the treasures found in his tomb. When the museum exhibit is loaned to a British museum, murder ensues, and a young in-experienced museum clerk is sent on a mysterious mission to Russia.
It was an entertaining read, but also somewhat informational, because I had never really even though
Jul 10, 2017 rated it really liked it
The plot revolves around (and around) a museum that has on exhibit a long dead royal child and all of his grave goods. The boy's tomb was discovered years earlier and has been in the Garamantian museum ever since. As the story begins it is on loan to a museum that is suspiciously similar to the British Museum in London.

Waring Smith, a young employee, is the most likely hero. It is his adventures the reader tends to follow. Murder and deception are riff.

Written in the in the 1970s, TGC is a joyf
Jul 31, 2017 rated it really liked it
3.5 stars
Aug 23, 2017 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2017, fiction
Well ... she got better. Will likely only appeal to the Fitzgerald completist.
Oct 28, 2016 rated it did not like it
too unrealistic
Dec 12, 2017 rated it really liked it
This is PF's first novel. As a debut, it's very impressive, especially the first 6 chapters, that is 85% of it. The last chapter, a 'commercially-geared' thrilling last act, is quite unbelieveable as a job of work done by her! after reading all the rest of her fiction (I'm mad aren't I, saving the first for last :). Just want to say I'm relieved that she abandoned this mainstream route. But it's on the whole a very good novel. One thinks it has inspired a certain Dan Brown, because, The Golden C ...more
Jan 25, 2014 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
Richard Moss
Apr 18, 2016 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
Jun 29, 2014 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
Jun 04, 2016 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
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
Jan 12, 2011 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.
Jan 18, 2012 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
Jul 25, 2011 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.
Aug 13, 2016 rated it it was amazing
This is the movie "Clue" but about museums and in book form. The writing is funny without being forced, and manages to create goofy circumstances without making them look contrived. Even the characters that are little more than tropes further develop the plot. Best bit: the Garamantes are real. So, you are then left wondering where the history ends and the imagination begins. Be patient with the beginning, for it starts a little slow, but it's worth it.
Mar 31, 2012 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.
Dec 12, 2014 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.
Feb 06, 2014 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....
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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
“He was not trained in conservation - he was, after all, no more than an archaeologist - a digger!” 1 likes
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