Golden Hill

Golden Hill

Francis Spufford / Dec 08, 2019

Golden Hill New York a small town on the tip of Manhattan island 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 i

  • Title: Golden Hill
  • Author: Francis Spufford
  • ISBN: 9780571225200
  • Page: 361
  • Format: Paperback
  • 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 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,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 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 As fast as a heist movie, as stuffed with incident as a whole shelf of conventional fiction, Golden Hill is both a novel about the 18th century, and itself a book cranked back to the novel s 18th 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.This is Fielding s Tom Jones recast on Broadway when Broadway was a tree lined avenue two hundreds yards long, with a fort at one end flying the Union Jack and a common at the other, grazed by cows.Rich in language and historical perception, yet compulsively readable, Golden Hill has a plot that twists 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.

    • Golden Hill « Francis Spufford
      361 Francis Spufford
    • thumbnail Title: Golden Hill « Francis Spufford
      Posted by:Francis Spufford
      Published :2019-09-15T10:42:56+00:00

    About "Francis Spufford"

      • Francis Spufford

        Spufford began as a writer of non fiction, though always with a strong element of story telling Among his early books are I May Be Some Time, The Child That Books Built, and Backroom Boys He has also edited two volumes of polar literature But beginning in 2010 with Red Plenty, which explored the Soviet Union around the time of Sputnik using a mixture of fiction and history, he has been drawing steadily closer and closer to writing novels, and after a slight detour into religious controversy with Unapologetic, arrived definitely at fiction in 2016 with Golden Hill He has been long listed or shortlisted for prizes for writing about history, science, politics, theology and the spirit of place Spufford studied English at Cambridge University He was a Royal Literary Fund fellow at Anglia Ruskin University from 2005 to 2007, and since 2008 has taught at Goldsmiths College in London on the MA in Creative and Life Writing there.


    1. A wonderful and surprising book indeed. This is what a book should be, full of unexpected tales and events, up until the very end. Sparkling, challenging, daring. The fifth star (or say o,5, I rate this book 4.5) is lacking because I did at times find some of the reading of this book challenging. But I say to everyone, persist, it is well worth the effort! A great history tale in the beginning of New York's existence, interesting to read how NY started out, and of course the events surrounding t [...]

    2. Francis Spufford has written a brilliant and cracking historical yarn for his fictional debut. It is set in the New York of 1746, it has a population of 7ooo and, whilst unlike the great city of today, the seeds of its future are indisputably present. An Englishman, Richard Smith, arrives in New York and on him he has a £1000 bill of exchange, a veritable fortune at that time. He is a man of mystery to the reader until the end of the book. He is greeted with suspicion and questions from the loc [...]

    3. All 10 of my friends that read Golden Hill gave it stellar reviews with an average of 4.50. As a result, I had high expectations from this novel, especially because the blurb sounded to be exactly what I love about historical fiction. Unfortunately, it did not work for me as much as I wanted. I enjoyed GH well enough to give it almost three stars but no more. However, I can understand why other readers might love it more than I did. The most important aspect for me in a novel is the writing, the [...]

    4. The year is 1746 when a young Englishman Richard Smith, arrives in New York with a bill of exchange to the value of £1,000, an enormous amount of money at the time. He seeks out a trader by the name of Lovell, on Golden Hill Street, who has 60 days to honour the bill.Exactly who Smith is and what his intentions are is unclear, not just to the inhabitants of New York, but to us the readers, however we're not privy to this information until the end of the book. The mystery compels the reader ever [...]

    5. Surprise, surprise, surprise. That is what you can expect when you read this debut novel.* The twists and turns multiply as we follow the young and enigmatic Mr Smith, newly arrived from England, around New York City in the year 1746. Our hero has a mission, and to accomplish it he needs the cash from a promissory note which may be redeemed in 60 days' time. During this period Mr Smith attempts to deflect all personal questions, including those relating to his reason for being in New York City. [...]

    6. There are many glowing reviews of this both in the press and on and I really thought I would love this story. I must admit that I found it less than interesting in spite of the secrecy surrounding Mr. Smith's business in New York, a robbery, a sexual indiscretion, and a duel. It wasn't until the very end that I felt any emotional connection to what was happening and it just wasn't soon enough for me to say this was a meaningful read for me. I was intrigued a couple at times - when we find out a [...]

    7. Patience is a virtue they say and I have to say after reading the first half of this novel, I was feeling very virtueous. The first part sets the scene of a New York, little more than twenty years before the revolution, and is extremely detailed. Many, many words but it does do the job, aquainting the reader thoroughly and meticulously with the political factions, the merchants, the nationalities and the extreme dislke of the French as well as the various religious affiliations, and almost every [...]

    8. I wish I liked Golden Hill more than I did. I am a tough customer when it comes to historical fiction, especially books set prior to 1900. I don't like books that romanticize the past or books that imprint contemporary sensibilities on historical characters. Golden Hill doesn't suffer from either of these flaws. In fact, it has a lot going for it. It's extremely well written and it does a great job giving life to to New York in the mid 1700s. But the story didn't really hold my interest until th [...]

    9. Having finished this book two months since, and having perused a vast quantity of printed works in the interval, recalling the story of Mr S— and his adventures in New-York in 1746 presents a considerable challenge. Were I to rely solely on my recollection of the persons and events contained within the narrative, this account had been ended before it begun, I retained so little memory of it. An obligation to reread the early chapters was therefore felt, and having acted upon it, memory deigned [...]

    10. Blunder upon blunder; nothing but blunders; half a hundred blunders.4.5 stars. Fantastic! New York, 1746. Population 7,000. Loved this book. Is it a comedy? A tragedy? A farce? A mystery? All of this and more.Mr Smith lands in New York and stirs up a veritable hornet's nest of trouble in the close knit community. We the reader get to witness the trials and tribulations of Mr. Smith's short time there.This book has a fabulous plot twist that put a wide smile on my face. And to cap it all, it was [...]

    11. 5★What a surprise! What started out as possibly a light-hearted romp turned out to be a completely absorbing story of New York in 1746, thirty years before the Revolutionary War. It is written in the language of the time, with some simplification of heavy Dutch accents for the English language readers, and I don’t think I ever noticed a false note. It sounds as if it was written then.The narrator says at the end (and it’s not a spoiler) that “I, who did not know what Mr Smith was thinkin [...]

    12. It's been a really long time since I read The Sot Weed Factor by John Barth. But this book immediately reminded me of it. Specifically, the ability to capture the language of the time. Not just in conversation, but the entire tone of the book. The joy here truly is the language. Spufford has a gift for description. The book begins with Mr. Smith having arrived from London in New York City, 1746. He has a note with him for £1,000, a princely sum in those days. He refuses to tell anyone the purpo [...]

    13. I love nothing more than a story which catches me unawares. Early on in this dazzling historical novel, Francis Spufford sets a mystery in motion that absolutely compels us to read on, and whose unexpected solution is not revealed until the final pages. Along the way there are twists that left me slack-jawed with astonishment and grinning in delight. It is the most fun I have had with a book in a long time.The setting is New York, the year 1746, and Richard Smith is the enigma at the heart of it [...]

    14. A certain young Englishman named "Smith" travels to the clean yet rather barbaric small town of New York, located on the tip of Manhattan Island, circa 1746. He has a certain agenda and a certain amount of riches at his disposal. Or does he? The question of his wealth is one of many such questions. And what exactly is his agenda? And background? And motivations? Various new New Yorkers are both eager yet full of dread to discover the secrets beneath this charismatic and chameleonic stranger's pl [...]

    15. (4.5) Just brilliant. You’ll never doubt for a moment that you are in 1746 New York – an English colony with a heavy Dutch influence, and slavery still the standard. The novel opens suddenly as twenty-four-year-old Richard Smith arrives from London with a promissory note for £1000, an astounding sum for the time. He won’t explain how he came by the money or what he intends to do with it, but the order seems to be legitimate. This puts the merchant Mr. Lovell in rather a bind, because that [...]

    16. It is hard to believe that this wonderfully picaresque romp through 18th century New York is Spufford's first novel. It manages to echo and gently parody many of the tropes of 18th century fiction, while mixing it with enough hindsight to make it appeal to a modern audience, and despite the richness of the language it soon becomes a genuine page-turner.The story follows an English adventurer who arrives from London in a New York which in 1746 is barely more than a large village, armed with a mon [...]

    17. Look Back in AngerAmerica has always been an angry place. And violent because it is angry. The order of precedence is important. Angry people are unpredictable, not only in their violence but in their non-violent moments. This is the central theme in Spufford's novel about 18th century New York City, reprised most explicitly in the most recent American elections. Golden Hill is a sort of retrospective prediction. There never was a moment of the American ideal's ideal existence.The focus of Spuff [...]

    18. Riffing on Quote from Novel (updated 2/15):Females as Fruits, Foods and Foliage (Sexism in Storytelling and Society)Golden Hill is well-done, enjoyable and creative in a way I cannot disclose without spoiling it. Some might find it gimmicky. I liked its tribute by similarities to the English novels of the late 18th century.I was struck by the below passage and started thinking how females have been subtly and not so subtly denigrated, demeaned and objectified by repeated (and mostly accepted) co [...]

    19. Ok, so this is naughty of me. Probably,Golden Hilldeserves more than the 80 pages I have given it but I feel like I am wading through a jumble of words and not taking anything in. I am getting that same twitchy feeling I had while attemptingThe Luminaries , something to do with a failure of me as a reader to fully accept the mode of historical pastiche on offer. Judging by plenty of reviews here, I might well be wrong and great frolics and adventures are, no doubt, on the way but I guess my mind [...]

    20. Published in 2016,Golden Hill: A Novel of Old New York is a swashbuckling debut novel by British author, Francis Spufford. It is recipient of the Costa First Novel Award, the Ondaatje Prize and the Desmond Elliott Prize. I am not typically a reader of historical fiction but I am impressed by Spufford’s credible creation of 18th century New York set in the turbulent days before the American Revolution. It is imaginative period drama told in a narrative voice and written correspondence that are [...]

    21. Maybe my favorite book I've read so far in 2017. A perfect, whip-smart evocation of mid 18th-century New York. Incredibly suspenseful, smart, funny. Couldn't have loved it more.

    22. BABTbbc/programmes/b08q4hwnDescription: New York, a small town on the tip of Manhattan Island, 1746. One rainy evening, a charming and handsome young stranger, fresh off the boat from England, pitches up to a counting house on Golden Hill Street, with a suspicious yet compelling proposition. He has an order for a thousand pounds in his pocket that he wishes to cash. But can he be trusted?This is New York in its infancy, a place where a young man with a fast tongue can invent himself afresh, fall [...]

    23. This is a book for you if you enjoy long (long) beautifully written descriptions and an extremely meandering narrative that isn't overly interested in getting to its destination. It does have one, and one that is poignant and simultaneously unbelievable - one that is based on 21st century concerns and ideals rather than those of the 18th century, although that's fine, of course, in a contemporary novel. All the same, I struggled with this book and just couldn't love it in the way that I expected [...]

    24. What rollicking fun to read. The pacing is a touch bit uneven but that is my only criticism.Really, I could have spent another several months in 1746 New York with our feckless chameleon of a narrator, Mr. Smith. So many books these days are just bloated, but this was one I didn't want to end. And so many historical novels either are filled with bloopers or wear their research creakily and showily, like a heavy suit of armor, but I believed in this recreation of colonial New York and trusted it [...]

    25. This is easily the best historical novel I've read in recent years.Except for the horrible spelling of 'all right' as 'alright' (so jarring every time I see it), the narrative voice not only reflects the vocabulary of the time, but also the graceful Enlightenment-era cadences. No awkward sentence fragments or clunky single-line paragraphs. It's beautifully written, and the narrative voice's identity is as much a surprise as is the secrets held by the mysterious young Mr. Smith, who arrives in Ne [...]

    26. Cheeky and brilliant and secretive and wittyd then brutal and lovely and shocking and sad. 4.5, oh heck, 5. It was excellent.

    27. "The impetus of the tide was lost in the width of the water, and they drifted onward, only, across a surface as steady as metal, as well as having its colour, while the crew hoisted more sail, to catch the little cats' paws of breeze that came wrinkling and dabbing the water, scuffing the water as they touched it, from silver into pewter." If you don't enjoy sentences like that, stay away from this book. There is some very flashy writing in this book, and lots of good period details, but ultimat [...]

    28. Mr. Smith turns up in New York in the mid 18th Century with an order for $1,000, an enormous sum of money for the time. He won't explain the whos, whys or whatnots and becomes a figure of great intrigue amongst the close-knit community. In the two months he lives there he gets involved in various scandals and falls for a young girl who frustrates and delights him in equal measure. Eventually, as the book comes to a close, we learn of why he is in New York and what the money is for.This book is b [...]

    29. I’m rather in the minority camp with Golden Hill. Most people seem to have adored it, while it left me a little cold.There were certainly things that I liked in the novel, notably the evocation of a mid-18thC, “Lilliputian” New York of 7,000 inhabitants, as seen through the sophisticated eyes of an inhabitant of giant, metropolitan London (whose population was 700, 000 at the time, as Francis Spufford informs us in the endnote.) The New York of Golden Hill is very Dutch still, or Dutch-Eng [...]

    30. Like almost everyone else, I think this is brilliant. It's gripping, superbly written and quite remarkably evocative of a time and a place.The time and place are November 1765, New York. Into this small city of 7000 people arrives Richard Smith from England; charming, attractive and mysterious, he is there on an errand or mission which he reveals to no-one, including the reader. His adventures and misadventures over the next couple of months are involving and exciting, and give us a wonderful po [...]

    Leave a Reply