Book Review: Joan London’s The Golden Age

The Golden AgeThe Golden Age by Joan London
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

I did find the setting and time intriguing, and the idea of a care home for kids with polio and a European immigrant couple adjusting to the New World in Perth in the 50s was engaging enough. As a poet and writer, I should have been engaged with the protagonist’s discovery of writing and the power of words, which leads him to his eventual career. But for some reason this part wasn’t convincing to me.

I found the prose often beautiful, and yet my interest kept failing me. I didn’t find enough dramatic tension or depth in the characters. In another book, the dramatic pivot late in the book would be… much more dramatic. The book would have lead to this point, and the repercussions afterwards much more strongly felt.

But it was so quiet this book, the characters generally all stoic and brave, strong, not particularly talkative, and accepting of their lot. I don’t need the book to be what it’s not: loud and action-filled, but I would have liked the volume turned up, say from a 3 to a 6 on a dial of 10.

Considering how roundly lauded this book is by professional critics and goodreads readers alike, I wonder if there is a lack of a cultural fit for this particular Canadian reader and this particular Australian writer.

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