Author(s): Francis Spufford
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, and he won't explain why, or where he comes from, or what he can be planning to do in the colonies that requires so much money.
Should the New York merchants trust him? Should they risk their credit and refuse to pay? Should they befriend him, seduce him, arrest him; maybe even kill him?
An astonishing first novel, as stuffed with incident as a whole shelf of conventional fiction, Golden Hill is both a book about the eighteenth century, and itself a novel cranked back to the form's eighteenth century beginnings, when anything could happen on the page, and usually did, and a hero was not a hero unless he ran the frequent risk of being hanged.
Rich in language and historical perception, yet compulsively readable, Golden Hill has a plot that twists in every chapter, and a puzzle at its heart that won't let go till the last paragraph of the last page.
Set a generation before the American Revolution, it paints an irresistible picture of a New York provokingly different from its later self: but subtly shadowed by the great city to come, and already entirely a place where a young man with a fast tongue can invent himself afresh, fall in love - and find a world of trouble.
Winner COSTA 2016 First Novel Award
Golden Hill is a novel of gloriously capacious humanity, thick-woven with life in all its oddness and familiarity, a novel of such joy it leaves you beaming, and such seriousness that it asks to be read again and again ... this novel is verifiable gold.' (Alexandra Harris Sunday Telegraph)
The intoxicating effect of Golden Hill is much more than an experiment in form. [Spufford] has created a complete world, employing his archivist skills to the great advantage of his novel ... This is a book born of patience, of knowledge accrued and distilled over decades, a style honed by practice. There are single scenes here more illuminating, more lovingly wrought, than entire books.' (Sophie Elmshirst Financial Times)
A cunningly crafted narrative that, right up to its tour de force conclusion, is alive with tantalising twists and turns ... This is a dazzlingly written novel. Little brilliances of metaphor and phrasing gleam everywhere. (Peter Kemp Sunday Times)
Like a newly discovered novel by Henry Fielding with extra material by Martin Scorsese. Why it works so well is largely down to Spufford's superb re-creation of New York ... His writing crackles with energy and glee, and when Smith's secret is finally revealed it is hugely satisfying on every level. For its payoff alone Golden Hill deserves a big shiny star. (Robert Douglas-Fairhurst The Times)
Splendidly entertaining and ingenious ... Throughout Golden Hill, Spufford creates vivid, painterly scenes of street and salon life, yet one never feels as though a historical detail has been inserted just because he knew about it. Here is deep research worn refreshingly lightly ... a first-class period entertainment. (Steven Poole Guardian)
Golden Hill shows a level of showmanship and skill which seems more like a crowning achievement than a debut . [Spufford] brings his people and situations to life with glancing ease ... They all live and breathe with conviction ... His descriptive powers are amazing ... Spufford's extraordinary visual imagination and brilliant pacing seems to owe more to the movies than anything else. (Claire Harman Evening Standard)
Utterly captivating ... pitch perfect from the opening sentence. (Richard Eyre Saturday Review, BBC Radio 4)
The best 18th century novel since the 18th century - I was completely engrossed (Frances Stonor Saunders Saturday Review, BBC Radio 4)
As a work of historical evocation it is just wonderful. (Jan Morris Literary Review)
Paying tribute to writers such as Fielding, Francis Spufford's creation exudes a zesty, pin-sharp contemporaneity ... colonial New York takes palpable shape in his dazzlingly visual, pacy and cleverly plotted novel.' (Elizabeth Buchan Daily Mail)
What a joy ... This novel was so much fun and so cleverly written, the language is rich and Spufford's meticulous research ensures that the detail is perfect ... Golden Hill was totally believable from page one and is the best novel I've read this year. I loved it. (Annabel Gaskell Shiny New Books blog)
The teeming, cart-torn New York of Golden Hill is as real as it gets. (Leo Robson New Statesman)
Quite marvellous. A vivid re-creation of colonial New York, in which the adventures of Mr Smith, who may be a charlatan or a hero, make for a page turner, with an unexpected and unusually satisfying ending. (CJ Sansom)
Francis Spufford, a former Sunday Times Young Writer of the Year (1997), has edited two acclaimed literary anthologies and a collection of essays about the history of technology. His first book, I May Be Some Time, won the Writers' Guild Award for Best Non-Fiction Book of 1996, the Banff Mountain Book Prize and a Somerset Maugham Award. His second, The Child That Books Built, gave Neil Gaiman 'the peculiar feeling that there was now a book I didn't need to write'. His third, Backroom Boys, was called 'as nearly perfect as makes no difference' by the Daily Telegraph and was shortlisted for the Aventis Prize. In 2007 he was elected a Fellow of the Royal Society of Literature. He teaches writing at Goldsmiths College and lives near Cambridge.