Francis Spufford’s Golden Hill is a bit tricky to get into at first. Unless you make a habit of reading eighteenth-century novels with exhaustingly long sentences, you’re probably going to struggle through the first few pages and find yourself re-reading a few lines thinking ‘what on earth does this actually mean?’ But I would advise you not to give up: because if you just keep reading, you’ll be rewarded with a vivid, entertaining and completely addictive book.
Written (mostly) in the style of authentic eighteenth-century novels, Golden Hill follows the mysterious Mr Smith as he arrives in the tiny, unstylish town of New York in 1746. This is the sort of book where the plot really isn’t that important: the vibrant characters and the brilliantly realised world are enough to keep the reader mesmerised. Halfway through, I realised that I honestly did not want this novel to end; that I could happily keep reading about Smith’s experiences and adventures for much, much longer than the narrative would allow.
But in a novel populated with unexpected turns, the ending’s gigantic twist admittedly falls a little flat. Perhaps it’s always a difficult task to neatly finish a vivacious and expansive novel, but don’t let that put you off: Golden Hill is genuinely wonderful.