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44. Golden Hill

We discuss Francis Spufford’s Golden Hill, a rollicking historical novel set in 18th-century New York. Its plot is full of more twists and turns than a slide at Centerparcs so we’ve split the episode into two. The first half is the safety zone where we won’t spoil the plot for you, but if you have read it and want to dive deeper listen on for part two.

New York, 1746, a time when the city was just finding its feet and beginning to thrive as a trading outpost. A young man arrives fresh off the boat from England with a mysterious order for a thousand pounds that he wishes to cash. Suspicious, his banker demands proof and so the stranger must wait in town until another ship from England can arrive to confirm his claim. Meanwhile the citizens of the town, in various ways, wish to make their own claims on the stranger, who must rely on his wits to remain free.

The book has been called ‘A flawlessly executed homage to the buccaneering fiction of Fielding and Sterne’ but what did Kate’s book club make of it? To discuss it, we’re joined by Phyllis Richardson, whose most recent book is House of Fiction, a fascinating study of authors and the houses they lived in. Phyllis also lectures in the department of English and Creative Writing at Goldsmith’s University, and more than knows her way around a historical novel so we were delighted to have her join us.

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Watch Francis Spufford give a tour of New York then and now.

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