Golden Hill by Francis Spufford
In this “ingenious” first novel, Francis Spufford has produced a “loving tribute” to the literature of the 18th century, said Steven Poole in The Guardian. It opens with Mr Smith, a young Londoner of mysterious background, arriving in New York in 1746 with a bill of exchange to the “enormous value” of £1,000. Over the ensuing 60 days (the time the payee, a local merchant, has to settle the bill), Smith “stumbles with lovable clumsiness” through the city. With its “era-appropriate” third-person narrative and “painterly scenes of street and salon life”, Golden Hill provides “first-class” entertainment.
This “dazzlingly written” novel “teems with incident”, said Peter Kemp in The Sunday Times. Like Henry Fielding’s Tom Jones, Smith is propelled through a “hectic assortment” of adventures: “in flagrante sexual embarrassments”, a rooftop scamper, a spell in jail “under the cobbles of Wall Street”. But the “high-fidelity literary mimicry” combines with a “wonderfully vivid evocation” of pre-Revolutionary New York – a “wholesome” city whose skyscape is a “jumble of stepped Dutch gables and church steeples”. You keep “eagerly turning the pages” right up to the “tour de force conclusion”.