Golden Hill

Francis Spufford. Scribner, $26 (336p) ISBN 978-1-5011-6387-6
Spufford’s first novel is set in colonial New York City, where—as new arrival from London Richard Smith discovers—things can get out of hand quickly, and often do. As soon as his ship docks on Allhallows 1746, Smith heads to merchant Gregory Lovell’s Golden Hill home to cash a large bill of credit. Despite Smith’s refusal to divulge exactly who he is or how he intends to use the money, Lovell gives him a variety of currency and coin and introduces the young man to his daughters, lovely Flora and sharp-tongued Tabitha. For two months rumors fly, as Smith exchanges flirtatious jibes with Tabitha, cautiously converses with the slave Zephyra, drinks coffee with the governor’s secretary, is rescued from a Guy Fawkes Day brawl by the secretary and the slave Achilles, dines with the governor, plays whist with the chief justice, languishes in debtor’s prison, performs in a stage play, gets caught trysting with the play’s full-figured star, fights a duel, and stands trial for murder. On Christmas Day, Smith finally reveals his high-minded purpose for coming to America. Recounting this picaresque tale with serious undertones, Spufford adeptly captures 18th-century commercial practices and linguistic peculiarities as well as pre-Revolutionary Manhattan’s cultural hodgepodge. His New York bursts with energy, danger, and potential. His ironic, sometimes bawdy sense of humor and coy storytelling may frustrate those who do not “cotton” to the “cant,” but patient readers are rewarded with a feast of language, character, local color, and historical detail. (June)
Reviewed on: 04/10/2017
Release date: 06/27/2017
Genre: Fiction
Downloadable Audio - 978-1-5082-5060-9
Paperback - 320 pages - 978-1-5011-6388-3
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