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The Golden Age (2014)

by Joan London

Other authors: See the other authors section.

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24215112,471 (3.95)45
Escaping the perils of World War II Hungary for Australia, Frank is diagnosed with polio and sent to a children's hospital where he falls in love with a fellow patient while their families struggle to adjust to life in a new culture.
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» See also 45 mentions

Showing 1-5 of 15 (next | show all)
A few years ago I read Second Chances by Harriet Zaidman which takes place in Winnipeg during the 1950s polio epidemic. This book was mentioned as further reading as it takes place in Australia in a rehab hospital for children with polio. But it is so much more than just a story about polio and the writing is wonderful.

Frank Gold came to Australia with his parents from Hungary, all having survived the Nazis during the war. Australia wasn't their first choice but it is the first place that offered them a home away from the chaos of post-war Hungary. His mother, a concert pianist in Budapest, does not like Perth where they have been settled but his father has taken to the new life. When Frank contracted polio his mother saw it as a final curse and stopped playing the piano. Frank is twelve years old when he gets polio and initially he was in the adult hospital but after his friend, Sullivan, died it was felt that he would be better off with children so he is sent to The Golden Age. Sullivan was in an iron lung and Frank used to sit with him and they would talk about poetry. Transcribing Sullivan's poems and writing some of his own led Frank to decide that being a poet would be his life's vocation. Frank is the oldest patient in the Golden Age but he notices Elsa who is just a little younger and they are drawn together. Soon they try to find places to be alone together and, if that's not possible, to at least have private conversations. They are perhaps a little young to be "in love" but they definitely love each other. The author intersperses the story of Frank and Elsa with ruminations about other people connected with them so we learn about how Frank's mother was able to protect Frank when the Nazis were rounding up everyone of Jewish heritage. And we learn about Sister Olive Penny whose husband died early in the war and whose daughter has been placed with friends in order to attend school which leaves their relationship somewhat strained. Sister Penny is wonderful with the patients and always seems to be wherever someone is needed but she has to make do with a series of men for her own needs. The reader comes to care for each character in the book, even Elsa's jealous younger sister.

I was discussing this book with a friend who contracted polio when she was an infant. She thought the book was wonderfully written but she wondered if she felt that because of her own circumstances. I was able to reassure her that it was a book that would speak to a great many people as it did to myself. One review I read compared the author, favourable, to Alice Munro and I think that is an apt comparison. The Golden Age was written in 2014 and it doesn't appear that the author has published anything since which is a pity. There are some previous works, both short stories and novels, so I will have to look for those but, unfortunately, there don't appear to be any in my library system. ( )
  gypsysmom | Feb 9, 2024 |
Very well written story set in a children's polio convalescent hospital in the 1950's. The characters are well structured. The audience is left wondering when Elsa and Frank would get together as they seemed made for each other. As to whether or not they do, well, you will have to read the book! ( )
  DAVIDGOTTS | Dec 29, 2023 |
Simple, yet powerful writing, this book surprised me. I was sure it was not going to fit my mood, I was right. And still, I could not put it down.

It is 1954. Frank Gold is 13 years old when he is diagnosed with Polio. Frank and his family are WWII Jewish immigrants from war torn Hungary. Elsa, a year younger, and a native Australian, meets Frank at The Golden Age Home where they are both being treated. The story encompasses more than their young love. London brings together a cast of characters, each with their own life stories. Everyone of them will grab hold of your heart and pull. Frank's parents, who are having difficulty acclimating to their new country. Elsa's mother, who has strived to be the perfect mother, now finding herself overwhelmed with her daughters illness. Then there are the nurses and other personnel at The Golden Age, each one touching Frank in a special way.

The end, I had a feeling, early on, that I was not going to like it. Thus 4 stars instead of 5. No reason though for you not to read it. Time well spent, with a superb writer and beautiful story. ( )
  JBroda | Sep 24, 2021 |
Poetic coming of age story

Lovely novel on first love, friendship and nostalgia for lost worlds and families, artfully intermingled stories of loss and love.
  Gadi_Cohen | Sep 22, 2021 |
This an evocative story set primarily in Australia in the early 1950's. The effects of WWII are still resonating throughout the world and the specter of polio haunts every family during these epidemic years. The main characters are Frank (Ferec) and Elsa, two young adolescents in a residential rehab center in Perth, undergoing treatment as they recover from polio.

There are several parallel stories of exile through the book. These two young teens have been exiled from their families and school in the Golden Age rehab home. Frank's parents are war refugee's from Budapest. Several of the care providers in the Golden Age are also from away.

The author sets the tone through her descriptions of the environment and her well drawn characters. Although the story mainly involves Frank and Elsa, there are several sub-stories that enhance the plot and draw the reader into the narrative.

The writing is quiet and understated, reminiscent of Kent Haruf's style of writing. The author lovingly and charitably draws her characters, causing the reader the care about what happens to them. ( )
  tangledthread | Mar 9, 2018 |
Showing 1-5 of 15 (next | show all)
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» Add other authors (1 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Joan Londonprimary authorall editionscalculated
Cull, SandyCover designersecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Goldin, NanCover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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Dedication
For my three sisters
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One afternoon during rest-time, the new boy, Frank Gold, left his bed, lowered himself into his wheelchair and glided down the corridor.
Quotations
He, Ida and Frank had left behind all their family and friends, those who had survived.  But the dead came with you.
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(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
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Escaping the perils of World War II Hungary for Australia, Frank is diagnosed with polio and sent to a children's hospital where he falls in love with a fellow patient while their families struggle to adjust to life in a new culture.

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Book description
It is 1954 and thirteen-year-old Frank Gold, refugee from wartime Hungary, is learning to walk again after contracting polio in Australia. At the Golden Age Children's Polio Convalescent Home in Perth, he sees Elsa, a fellow patient, and they form a forbidden, passionate bond.

The Golden Age becomes the little world that reflects the larger one, where everything occurs: love and desire, music, death, and poetry. It is a place where children must learn they're alone, even within their families.
It is 1954 and thirteen-year-old Frank Gold, refugee from wartime Hungary, is learning to walk again after contracting polio in Australia. At the Golden Age Children's Polio Convalescent Home in Perth, he sees Elsa, a fellow patient, and they form a forbidden, passionate bond.

The Golden Age becomes the little world that reflects the larger one, whereby everything occurs: love and desire, music, death, and poetry. It is a place where children must learn they're alone, even within their families.
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