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Publisher's Summary

Winner of the Costa First Novel Award
Winner of the RSL Ondaatje Prize
Winner of the Desmond Elliott Prize
Named "Novel of the Year" by the UK'S Sunday Times

The spectacular first novel from acclaimed nonfiction author Francis Spufford follows the adventures of a mysterious young man in mid-18th century Manhattan, 30 years before the American Revolution.
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 arrives at a countinghouse door on Golden Hill Street: This is Mr. Smith, amiable, charming, yet strangely determined to keep suspicion shimmering. For in his pocket, he has what seems to be an order for a thousand pounds, a huge sum, and he won't explain why, or where he comes from, or what he is 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?
Rich in language and historical perception yet compulsively listenable, Golden Hill is a story "taut with twists and turns" that "keeps you gripped until its tour-de-force conclusion" (The Times, London). Spufford paints an irresistible picture of a New York provokingly different from its later metropolitan self but 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.
©2017 Francis Spufford (P)2017 S&S Audio
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Critic Reviews

“Nothing short of a masterpiece.” ( The Guardian)
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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful
4 out of 5 stars
By Dubi on 12-01-17

Unexpected Pleasure or Unexpected Pain

There is only one scene in Golden Hill that takes place outside of mid-18th century New York City. Two characters take a boat trip up the Hudson to Tarrytown. Richard Smith, one of the two characters, recently arrived from England, shows consternation at the view of the cliffs of upper Manhattan, the Palisades, and of the wide expanse of the river at the Tappan Zee.

As a longtime resident of NYC, I sometimes look around me at the city of today and wonder what it was like before it was built up. Just like any place else, I suppose, in today's rural America -- some farms and a lot of woods, which you could never project as some great metropolis of the 23rd century.

One of the great things about Golden Hill is that it brings that era of pre-metropolis NYC to life, when the city was really just a small town of 7,000 surrounded by rivers and forests. But that would be not enough -- in fact, the first half of the book dwells too heavily on describing the city and its social life, the novelty wearing off and the reader hoping for more. The first half is also told using English as it was spoken in those days, which is a bit of tough go.

Fortunately, that's just when the actual story gets going, with the language reverting to the way we speak it today. Smith has come to New York with a boatload of money but refuses to tell anyone what he plans to do with it, or anything about himself. So naturally everyone focuses all their attention on him, some because they hope to benefit from his wealth, some because they hope to undermine him.

In the end, two great secrets are revealed which bring the story together. I am not going to even hint at what those secrets might be. But it is worth it to say that they are told, to get you going to the end.

Unfortunately, a number of other reviewers do not agree -- this is clearly a love it or hate it book. I usually attribute that to expectations, and such is the case here, although opposite to the usual sense of expectations being dashed. I believe that if you know what to expect or not expect from this book, you will not be disappointed.

One thing you should not expect, despite the story being set just a few decades before the American Revolution, is anything even remotely related to the upcoming revolution. Nor for that matter is their anything at all about the other colonies, nor anything about any of the well known figures of the day (i.e. the founding fathers) other than a handful of lesser known New Yorkers (e.g. Clinton and Delancey).

You should expect there to be a reason why a woman narrates a book written by a man that is mostly about a man. You should expect a comedy of manners about New York society, some drama and action derived from the colonial nature of the city during that era, and an ultimate reveal that you will not see coming. Give it a shot, regardless of the bad reviews.

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3 of 3 people found this review helpful

2 out of 5 stars
By Jay Day on 08-05-17


This book wasn’t for you, but who do you think might enjoy it more?

No one. The production was horrible The narrator couldn't keep her accents straight, using two different ones for the same character, she spoke way too fast as to be incomprehensible, and why use a female narrator when the vast majority of the characters are male? I think S&S was in a hurry and threw this together at the last minute.

What was one of the most memorable moments of Golden Hill?

The book is lovely but the only thing memorable about the audio was turning it off.

Would you be willing to try another one of Sarah Borges’s performances?

Yes. It's not her fault. The producer should be fired.

What reaction did this book spark in you? Anger, sadness, disappointment?

Anger at the producer and the publisher.

Any additional comments?

This is a terrific book and to have the audio be so awful is a real shame. The author and the narrator deserved better.

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14 of 17 people found this review helpful

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