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The Golden Child

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Format: Paperback

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Book Overview

This description may be from another edition of this product. Penelope Fitzgerald's novel, The Golden Child , combines a deft comedy of manners with a classic mystery set in London's most refined institution--the museum. When the glittering treasure of ancient...

Customer Reviews

5 ratings

A one sitting book.

I just finished The Golden Child by Penelope Fitzgerald. What a fun book and quite extraordinarily different from the last one of hers which I read. The Golden Child is part comedy, part murder mystery and a sly parody of the hierarchy of an Art/Historical Museum. Ms. Fitzgerald also gets a few pokes in at the various secret services of the world. The book was published in 1977, still the Cold War era. An unnamed London museum has become the beneficiary of a Tutankhamun type exhibit, curses attached and all. Quite early on it becomes clear that everything in the exhibit is a fake. A junior museum officer is sent off to Russia on a hare-brained chase; the elderly discoverer of the exhibit is found murdered; the police are called in, but it is two junior members of the staff, along with a German professor, who solve the mystery. Along the way Fitzgerald paints cleverly cynical portraits of many of the upper echelon of the museum, not to mention MI5 and the KGB. I believe I have all of Fitzgerald's novels and cannot wait for an excuse to pick up the next one.

Best bet for an intro to her work

I read a few of her books, finding this one the most ... shall we say, approachable. Not that the others weren't well-written, but this one is plot-driven and funny, rather than a serious character study (like "The Bookshop").

I?m sorry she waited until 69

This lady was truly an amazing writer. She started her career at the age of 69, and happily produced a good-sized body of work. "The Golden Child" is the third work of hers that I have read. It's a wonderful book, as I have yet to read anything other from her pen, but it is as different from the other two, as they are from each other."The Bookshop" was quite serious, "The Blue Flower" a wonderful historic piece during the period of Goethe's Germany, and now this work which demonstrates her unconstrained wit. She still includes subtle bits of humor, but much is laugh out loud funny. Granted some is a bit dark, but as another reviewer mentioned, it is very "English" as in, "oh...that, well yes, bullet wound you see, no bother, terribly sorry about the carpet". That line is not specifically in the book, but I hope it gives an idea of the fun within "The Golden Child".The story is populated with great characters; including two of the best curmudgeons I have enjoyed reading. At one point she goes well onto a limb with a performance by one of the Museum's top executives, who is called upon to "lecture" about that which he knows little of. The performance approaches Monty Python humor.A third book, and a third great read. I look forward to seeing how many other genres she must have handled so well.

funny as only the English can be

Don't expect a mindbending Agatha Christie novel when you pick up Fitzgerald's first novel -- it's much more of a British farce making fun of the stuffy art critic world, the English in general (the main character has to deal with his wife Haggie who finds him uninspiring and boring) and anything to do with pretension. The whole premise of the novel is funny: people are queueing for days in the cold for this incredible exhibition of the so called Golden Child, but it turns out to be a fake. At one point, the main character is strangled by the "golden thread" that is supposedly a key part of the exhibit. There is a superb scene when the main character actually is trying to kill time to avoid his wife and decides to stand on line to see the exhibit for himself. He develops a feeling of solidarity with the people in line who share war stories about their wait to see the statue for the brief 20 seconds they are allotted. Fitzgerald captures perfectly this "fan mania" that anyone who has ever lined up for an event will enjoy reading. He chickens out right before actually seeing the exhibit and never makes it. The mystery part of the book is not that great, but the hilarious characters and dry satire make it an enjoyable read.

Satire at its best

The English museum is proud of its Winter Exhibition of the GOLDEN CHILD. All students know that the collection comes from the Garamantian, African people who lived in 449 BC. In 1913, Sir William Simkin found the treasure. Though he lives nearby, William seems to be the only person in the country refusing to visit the exhibit, as he apparently fears its' so-called curse. Many foreign visitors plan to travel to England for the display. Other experts insist the treasure is a fake. Is it real or is it a hoax? Is it truly cursed or is its finder senile? Suddenly, the museum seems primed for scorn as if they hung a Pollack upside down. The director sends Waring Smith to Moscow to have Professor Semyonov authenticate the showcase item. In Russia, he observes long lines waiting for the unveiling of a mummified Lenin that leaves Waring wary about his fellow man. THE GOLDEN CHILD is a reprint of Penelope Fitzgerald's satirical look at the world of art and people in general. Though in many ways the story line is a typical British mystery, the plot contains much more humor as it laughs at institutions including the typical British mystery. Fans who relish gentle ripping at the guts of the sanctimonious pillars of society will fully enjoy this novel. Houghton Mifflin in their Mariner line is reprinting many of Ms. Fitgerald's other books.
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