The Golden Age by Joan London

The Golden Age

The Golden Age by Joan London

Joan London’s award-winning novel, The Golden Age, is set in a children’s polio convalescent home in Perth, Australia in the early 1950s. The novel explores the experiences of patients, their families, and staff, as they navigate the challenges of the illness, the impacts of social expectations and familial responsibilities, and the transformative power of relationships.

Frank Gold, a thirteen-year-old Hungarian Jew, is one of the main characters in the novel. He is recovering from polio and struggles to come to terms with his new life in Australia, a country he sees as alien to his European upbringing. Frank forms a close bond with Elsa Briggs, a fellow patient who has a love for literature, and they form a friendship that transcends their differences. The story follows their journey as they navigate the difficult terrain of adolescence, love, and coming-of-age in a world that is changing rapidly around them.

The Golden Age explores themes of identity, belonging, love, loss, and hope. It explores the ways in which individuals and communities grapple with adversity and find ways to connect and heal through shared experiences. The novel also delves into the complexities of family relationships, as parents struggle to come to terms with the illnesses of their children, and siblings navigate the impacts of their siblings’ illnesses on their own lives.

London’s evocative writing paints a vivid picture of life in post-war Australia, and the experiences of patients in the polio convalescent home. The novel’s exploration of the power of literature to transcend cultural and linguistic barriers, and its celebration of the resilience of the human spirit, have resonated with readers around the world.

The Golden Age has been praised for its insightful and empathetic portrayal of the experiences of patients and families affected by polio, and for its portrayal of the complex emotional and psychological impact of the illness. It has been recognized with numerous awards, including the 2015 Prime Minister’s Literary Award for Fiction, and has been translated into multiple languages.

Overall, The Golden Age is a poignant and thought-provoking novel that offers a window into a unique time and place in history, while exploring themes that remain relevant today. It is a testament to the power of literature to bring people together, and to the resilience of the human spirit in the face of adversity.

Key Facts

• Title: The Golden Age
• Author: Joan London
• Type: Fiction novel
• Published: 2014
• Setting: Perth, Western Australia, 1954
• Main characters: Frank Gold, Elsa Briggs, and Ida Gold
• Themes: Love, loss, illness, displacement, identity, and family
• Awards: 2015 Prime Minister’s Literary Award for Fiction, 2015 Kibble Literary Award, and 2015 New South Wales Premier’s Literary Award for Fiction
• Inspiration: The author’s personal experience with polio and her mother’s experience as a nurse
• Adaptation: The novel has not been adapted into a film or TV series yet.

Major Characters

1. Frank Gold: A Hungarian-Jewish refugee who contracted polio and was confined to a wheelchair. He is the protagonist of the story and is based on the author’s husband.
2. Elsa Briggs: A young girl who is also a patient at the Golden Age Children’s Polio Convalescent Home. She is Frank’s love interest and is based on the author’s friend.
3. Sister Penny: A kind and compassionate nurse who cares for the children at the convalescent home. She becomes a mother figure to Frank and Elsa.
4. Sister Avery: A strict and authoritarian nurse who is responsible for discipline at the convalescent home.
5. Ida Gold: Frank’s mother who accompanies him to the convalescent home. She is a strong and determined woman who loves her son deeply.
6. Meyer Gold: Frank’s father who stays behind in Hungary to fight in the resistance against the Nazis.
7. Sullivan: A former boxer who works at the convalescent home as a porter. He develops a close bond with Frank and becomes a father figure to him.
8. Sister Penny’s family: Sister Penny’s husband and children who live near the convalescent home. They become Frank’s surrogate family.
9. Elsa’s family: Elsa’s parents and sister who visit her at the convalescent home. They become close friends with Frank and his family.
10. Other children: Various children who are patients at the convalescent home and form friendships with Frank and Elsa.

Minor Characters

1. Sister Penny – a nun who works at the Golden Age, she provides comfort and care for the patients
2. Matron – the head nurse who is strict but caring
3. Sister Avery – a nurse who is kind and motherly
4. Ida – Sister Penny’s sister, who has a son, Ben
5. Ben – Ida’s son who becomes friends with Frank
6. Meyer – a refugee from Germany who is a patient at the Golden Age
7. Elsa – Meyer’s wife who also becomes a patient at the Golden Age
8. Mr. and Mrs. Porteus – parents of Elsa, they are wealthy and visit Elsa at the Golden Age frequently
9. Mrs. Jacobs – a neighbor of Frank and Elsa who visits Elsa at the Golden Age
10. Mr. Schneider – a former professor and patient at the Golden Age
11. Miss Lambert – a patient at the Golden Age who is a former opera singer
12. Mr. Glass – a patient at the Golden Age who is blind and has a sharp sense of hearing


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