homepage
  roll on christmas  
click here to find out more about ship of fools click here to sign up for the ship of fools newsletter click here to support ship of fools
community the mystery worshipper gadgets for god caption competition foolishness features ship stuff
discussion boards live chat cafe avatars frequently-asked questions the ten commandments gallery private boards register for the boards
 
Ship of Fools


Post new thread  Post a reply
My profile login | Register | Directory | Search | FAQs | Board home
   - Printer-friendly view Next oldest thread   Next newest thread
» Ship of Fools   » Community discussion   » Heaven   » January Book Group: Golden Hill

 - Email this page to a friend or enemy.    
Source: (consider it) Thread: January Book Group: Golden Hill
Dafyd
Shipmate
# 5549

 - Posted      Profile for Dafyd   Email Dafyd   Send new private message       Edit/delete post   Reply with quote 
This month's book is Golden Hill by Francis Spufford. It was published last year and is out in paperback in the UK.

It is Spufford's first novel. He has previously written several non-fiction books, including The Child that Books Built and Unapologetic.

Golden Hill has been called a tribute to eighteenth century novels such as Tobias Smollett's Roderick Random. I cannot confirm this as I haven't read Smollett.

I believe it is traditional to start conversation on the 20th of the month. Note that there will be a spoiler warning as there are one or two twists in the tale.

--------------------
we remain, thanks to original sin, much in love with talking about, rather than with, one another. Rowan Williams

Posts: 9859 | From: Edinburgh | Registered: Feb 2004  |  IP: Logged
Sarasa
Shipmate
# 12271

 - Posted      Profile for Sarasa   Email Sarasa   Send new private message       Edit/delete post   Reply with quote 
I'm in. This review in The Guardian seems to suggest that this is a novel that will be right up my street. I like picaresque novels, and this is a period of history and a setting I know little of.

--------------------
Previously Gussie.
Newt fancier turned goldfish

Posts: 1710 | From: London | Registered: Jan 2007  |  IP: Logged
Trudy Scrumptious

BBE Shieldmaiden
# 5647

 - Posted      Profile for Trudy Scrumptious   Author's homepage   Email Trudy Scrumptious   Send new private message       Edit/delete post   Reply with quote 
It sounds like my kind of book, and I'll read it if I can get it. Weirdly, my usual outlets for e-books (my preferred format) are telling me I can't get it as an e-book in Canada till June 27. Same for hardcover -- yet Indigo's site suggests I can get it in paperback on January 10. Having a paperback available before the hardcover is so odd it's hard to imagine that's not a mistake, but I'll keep looking.

--------------------
Books and things.

I lied. There are no things. Just books.

Posts: 7238 | From: Closer to Paris than I am to Vancouver | Registered: Mar 2004  |  IP: Logged
Sarasa
Shipmate
# 12271

 - Posted      Profile for Sarasa   Email Sarasa   Send new private message       Edit/delete post   Reply with quote 
Trudy Scrumptious - apologies for not having checked more thoroughly that people would be able to get the book easily. I hope you manage to track it down. I do wish you could buy ebooks from other coutnries, I've had that problems with things I want not yet available in the UK.

--------------------
Previously Gussie.
Newt fancier turned goldfish

Posts: 1710 | From: London | Registered: Jan 2007  |  IP: Logged
Trudy Scrumptious

BBE Shieldmaiden
# 5647

 - Posted      Profile for Trudy Scrumptious   Author's homepage   Email Trudy Scrumptious   Send new private message       Edit/delete post   Reply with quote 
Yes, I'm sure I can order a physical copy of the book sent from the UK, but would really prefer the e-book. Doesn't seem to be a way around that (that I know of, anyway). I will keep searching though.

--------------------
Books and things.

I lied. There are no things. Just books.

Posts: 7238 | From: Closer to Paris than I am to Vancouver | Registered: Mar 2004  |  IP: Logged
Tree Bee

Ship's tiller girl
# 4033

 - Posted      Profile for Tree Bee   Email Tree Bee   Send new private message       Edit/delete post   Reply with quote 
I've reserved it from the library so hoping to join in.

--------------------
"Any fool can make something complicated. It takes a genius to make it simple."
— Woody Guthrie
http://saysaysay54.wordpress.com

Posts: 5180 | From: me to you. | Registered: Feb 2003  |  IP: Logged
Trudy Scrumptious

BBE Shieldmaiden
# 5647

 - Posted      Profile for Trudy Scrumptious   Author's homepage   Email Trudy Scrumptious   Send new private message       Edit/delete post   Reply with quote 
The chain bookstore here (Chapters/Indigo) seems to be sticking to their story that the paperback will be available Jan 10. I've never heard, even with a book published in another country, of the paperback coming out before both the hardcover and the e-book -- but I am going to take them at their word and hope to be able to get it on the 10th.

--------------------
Books and things.

I lied. There are no things. Just books.

Posts: 7238 | From: Closer to Paris than I am to Vancouver | Registered: Mar 2004  |  IP: Logged
Dafyd
Shipmate
# 5549

 - Posted      Profile for Dafyd   Email Dafyd   Send new private message       Edit/delete post   Reply with quote 
It's just been announced that Golden Hill's won the Costa Prize for First Novel.
(For those of you who are put off by books that win prizes, please don't be put off.)

--------------------
we remain, thanks to original sin, much in love with talking about, rather than with, one another. Rowan Williams

Posts: 9859 | From: Edinburgh | Registered: Feb 2004  |  IP: Logged
Trudy Scrumptious

BBE Shieldmaiden
# 5647

 - Posted      Profile for Trudy Scrumptious   Author's homepage   Email Trudy Scrumptious   Send new private message       Edit/delete post   Reply with quote 
As I sort of suspected, now that Jan 10 has come, Indigo is showing the paperback as "out of stock." I don't think there's any way I'm going to be able to get it, which is a shame because it really sounds like a book I'd like. I'm sure I'll read it eventually.

--------------------
Books and things.

I lied. There are no things. Just books.

Posts: 7238 | From: Closer to Paris than I am to Vancouver | Registered: Mar 2004  |  IP: Logged
Jane R
Shipmate
# 331

 - Posted      Profile for Jane R   Email Jane R   Send new private message       Edit/delete post   Reply with quote 
I'm toying with the idea of joining in; I don't normally read literary fiction, but it does sound entertaining. I'll see if I can get it from the library...
Posts: 3417 | Registered: May 2001  |  IP: Logged
Dafyd
Shipmate
# 5549

 - Posted      Profile for Dafyd   Email Dafyd   Send new private message       Edit/delete post   Reply with quote 
The more the merrier. I hope Trudy finds a copy.

--------------------
we remain, thanks to original sin, much in love with talking about, rather than with, one another. Rowan Williams

Posts: 9859 | From: Edinburgh | Registered: Feb 2004  |  IP: Logged
Baptist Trainfan
Shipmate
# 15128

 - Posted      Profile for Baptist Trainfan   Email Baptist Trainfan   Send new private message       Edit/delete post   Reply with quote 
I'm half-way through it (library copy). It's a slow burn and took me some time to get into - but I love it.

I've read all of Spufford's books and I think it's very slightly unfair that he got the Costa prize for first novel. His unusual portrayal of the Soviet Union "Red Plenty", although basically a book of history, is no far off from being a novel in parts (and I loved it).

"Golden Hill" just cries out to be made into a good BBC Sunday evening drama series - I've even started mentally casting it!

Posts: 8419 | From: East of Greenwich | Registered: Sep 2009  |  IP: Logged
Dafyd
Shipmate
# 5549

 - Posted      Profile for Dafyd   Email Dafyd   Send new private message       Edit/delete post   Reply with quote 
quote:
Originally posted by Baptist Trainfan:
"Golden Hill" just cries out to be made into a good BBC Sunday evening drama series - I've even started mentally casting it!

I am going to want to know what your casting choices are, and whether they change at all as you read.

--------------------
we remain, thanks to original sin, much in love with talking about, rather than with, one another. Rowan Williams

Posts: 9859 | From: Edinburgh | Registered: Feb 2004  |  IP: Logged
Baptist Trainfan
Shipmate
# 15128

 - Posted      Profile for Baptist Trainfan   Email Baptist Trainfan   Send new private message       Edit/delete post   Reply with quote 
Well, I thought of Lily James (Natasha in the BBC "War and Peace") as Flora. The interesting one to cast will be Tabitha.
Posts: 8419 | From: East of Greenwich | Registered: Sep 2009  |  IP: Logged
Trudy Scrumptious

BBE Shieldmaiden
# 5647

 - Posted      Profile for Trudy Scrumptious   Author's homepage   Email Trudy Scrumptious   Send new private message       Edit/delete post   Reply with quote 
I have managed to obtain an e-copy and will start it probably this evening, as soon as I finish finding out exactly how the Scots did invent the modern world.

--------------------
Books and things.

I lied. There are no things. Just books.

Posts: 7238 | From: Closer to Paris than I am to Vancouver | Registered: Mar 2004  |  IP: Logged
Baptist Trainfan
Shipmate
# 15128

 - Posted      Profile for Baptist Trainfan   Email Baptist Trainfan   Send new private message       Edit/delete post   Reply with quote 
//Does that mean we can blame them for all its failings?

If so, I must inform my (Scottish) wife!//

[ 12. January 2017, 10:36: Message edited by: Baptist Trainfan ]

Posts: 8419 | From: East of Greenwich | Registered: Sep 2009  |  IP: Logged
Sarasa
Shipmate
# 12271

 - Posted      Profile for Sarasa   Email Sarasa   Send new private message       Edit/delete post   Reply with quote 
What I'm finding fascinating (and I agree with Baptist Trainman that it's taken a while to get into it) is the description of Manhatten at the time.

--------------------
Previously Gussie.
Newt fancier turned goldfish

Posts: 1710 | From: London | Registered: Jan 2007  |  IP: Logged
venbede
Shipmate
# 16669

 - Posted      Profile for venbede   Email venbede   Send new private message       Edit/delete post   Reply with quote 
I hope to read it when the other half finishes his copy.

I browsed an interesting description of church going in C18 New York, but Spufford is a vicar's husband, putting him in that fine line of vicarage novelists with Austen, Bronte and Sterne.

--------------------
Man was made for joy and woe;
And when this we rightly know,
Thro' the world we safely go.

Posts: 3105 | From: An historic market town nestling in the folds of Surrey's rolling North Downs, | Registered: Sep 2011  |  IP: Logged
Baptist Trainfan
Shipmate
# 15128

 - Posted      Profile for Baptist Trainfan   Email Baptist Trainfan   Send new private message       Edit/delete post   Reply with quote 
No longer the husband of a mere Vicar - she's now a Residentiary Canon at Ely Cathedral!
Posts: 8419 | From: East of Greenwich | Registered: Sep 2009  |  IP: Logged
Trudy Scrumptious

BBE Shieldmaiden
# 5647

 - Posted      Profile for Trudy Scrumptious   Author's homepage   Email Trudy Scrumptious   Send new private message       Edit/delete post   Reply with quote 
Absolutely loving the book so far ... it sucked me in right from the first pages.

--------------------
Books and things.

I lied. There are no things. Just books.

Posts: 7238 | From: Closer to Paris than I am to Vancouver | Registered: Mar 2004  |  IP: Logged
Trudy Scrumptious

BBE Shieldmaiden
# 5647

 - Posted      Profile for Trudy Scrumptious   Author's homepage   Email Trudy Scrumptious   Send new private message       Edit/delete post   Reply with quote 
Finished. Oh my. I have very complicated feelings about this book. Can't wait to discuss.

--------------------
Books and things.

I lied. There are no things. Just books.

Posts: 7238 | From: Closer to Paris than I am to Vancouver | Registered: Mar 2004  |  IP: Logged
Curiosity killed ...

Ship's Mug
# 11770

 - Posted      Profile for Curiosity killed ...   Email Curiosity killed ...   Send new private message       Edit/delete post   Reply with quote 
It's on my Kindle, but no guarantee I'll read it in time for the discussion.

--------------------
Mugs - Keep the Ship afloat

Posts: 13059 | From: outiside the outer ring road | Registered: Aug 2006  |  IP: Logged
Tree Bee

Ship's tiller girl
# 4033

 - Posted      Profile for Tree Bee   Email Tree Bee   Send new private message       Edit/delete post   Reply with quote 
I'm about half way through. Hopefully I'll finish it in time.

--------------------
"Any fool can make something complicated. It takes a genius to make it simple."
— Woody Guthrie
http://saysaysay54.wordpress.com

Posts: 5180 | From: me to you. | Registered: Feb 2003  |  IP: Logged
Sarasa
Shipmate
# 12271

 - Posted      Profile for Sarasa   Email Sarasa   Send new private message       Edit/delete post   Reply with quote 
Just finished it. Like Trudy Scrumptious I can't wait to discuss it.

--------------------
Previously Gussie.
Newt fancier turned goldfish

Posts: 1710 | From: London | Registered: Jan 2007  |  IP: Logged
Baptist Trainfan
Shipmate
# 15128

 - Posted      Profile for Baptist Trainfan   Email Baptist Trainfan   Send new private message       Edit/delete post   Reply with quote 
I've only got to the bit where he's in prison with a horrific cell-mate. Clearly he gets out or there would be no more story!
Posts: 8419 | From: East of Greenwich | Registered: Sep 2009  |  IP: Logged
venbede
Shipmate
# 16669

 - Posted      Profile for venbede   Email venbede   Send new private message       Edit/delete post   Reply with quote 
quote:
Originally posted by Baptist Trainfan:
No longer the husband of a mere Vicar - she's now a Residentiary Canon at Ely Cathedral!

And good on the Ely Cathedral website in announcing it and saying nothing of her husband, in the way a wife would be flagged up as an accessory to her husband.

--------------------
Man was made for joy and woe;
And when this we rightly know,
Thro' the world we safely go.

Posts: 3105 | From: An historic market town nestling in the folds of Surrey's rolling North Downs, | Registered: Sep 2011  |  IP: Logged
Dafyd
Shipmate
# 5549

 - Posted      Profile for Dafyd   Email Dafyd   Send new private message       Edit/delete post   Reply with quote 
The discussion will have spoilers. If you haven't finished the book before the discussion starts I suggest you steer clear of the thread unless you like spoilers. One of the big spoilers is in the last chapter.

--------------------
we remain, thanks to original sin, much in love with talking about, rather than with, one another. Rowan Williams

Posts: 9859 | From: Edinburgh | Registered: Feb 2004  |  IP: Logged
Trudy Scrumptious

BBE Shieldmaiden
# 5647

 - Posted      Profile for Trudy Scrumptious   Author's homepage   Email Trudy Scrumptious   Send new private message       Edit/delete post   Reply with quote 
Oh yeah there is no way I can discuss this book without discussing the ending. It had a huge impact on how I felt about the book.

--------------------
Books and things.

I lied. There are no things. Just books.

Posts: 7238 | From: Closer to Paris than I am to Vancouver | Registered: Mar 2004  |  IP: Logged
Jane R
Shipmate
# 331

 - Posted      Profile for Jane R   Email Jane R   Send new private message       Edit/delete post   Reply with quote 
I'm still waiting for my library copy... hoping to be able to join in before the end of the discussion.
Posts: 3417 | Registered: May 2001  |  IP: Logged
Tree Bee

Ship's tiller girl
# 4033

 - Posted      Profile for Tree Bee   Email Tree Bee   Send new private message       Edit/delete post   Reply with quote 
Finished!

--------------------
"Any fool can make something complicated. It takes a genius to make it simple."
— Woody Guthrie
http://saysaysay54.wordpress.com

Posts: 5180 | From: me to you. | Registered: Feb 2003  |  IP: Logged
Dafyd
Shipmate
# 5549

 - Posted      Profile for Dafyd   Email Dafyd   Send new private message       Edit/delete post   Reply with quote 
Discussion Time.

There will be spoilers.


So. Some questions to start things off.

1. Was it fun?

2. The novel is among other things a love story. Were you rooting for Smith and Tabitha? Or were you thinking the relationship would be a disaster?

3. From very early on in the novel there is a mystery about Smith's mission, which isn't resolved until the end of the penultimate chapter. Did you find that frustrating? Was the nature of the mission a satisfying conclusion?

4. In the final chapter we find out that the apparently nearly omniscient narrator is in fact Tabitha. Did you think that twist works? Are there any scenes that strike you differently in that light?

5. Did anything strike you as interesting or comment-worthy in the depiction of eighteenth century New York? For example, New York society? prisons? duelling? anything else?

6. The reviews compare this to 18th century novels, in particular Smollett. Has anyone here read Smollett? (I haven't.) If you have, do you agree?

--------------------
we remain, thanks to original sin, much in love with talking about, rather than with, one another. Rowan Williams

Posts: 9859 | From: Edinburgh | Registered: Feb 2004  |  IP: Logged
Trudy Scrumptious

BBE Shieldmaiden
# 5647

 - Posted      Profile for Trudy Scrumptious   Author's homepage   Email Trudy Scrumptious   Send new private message       Edit/delete post   Reply with quote 
1. Was it fun?

Right up to the moment of reading the epilogue, it was one of the best reading experiences I'd had in a long time. Historical fiction is my favourite genre and I thought this was a wonderful example. I was completely pulled into the story, loved Smith as a main character and all the other characters around him, and felt completely immersed in the world of mid 18th-c New York.

2. The novel is among other things a love story. Were you rooting for Smith and Tabitha? Or were you thinking the relationship would be a disaster?

I was completely rooting for Smith and Tabitha, which is one reason I found the ending so devastating. I thought the relationship was intriguing and Tabitha a wonderfully well-developed character in the sense that she was so complex. It wasn't simply a case of "Oh, this beautiful young woman can be sharp-tongued and spiteful but when the right man comes along she drops that pretense and you can see her true inner loveliness." She was a smart woman, obviously confined by the limits of a woman's role in her society, and could be quite genuinely nasty and bitter. Still, I believed she had it in her to break free and run away with Smith and was devastated at the end when she didn't. It might have been the more realistic ending but I wanted the romantic one, which also offered hope and possibility.

There was hope/redemption/possibility (what I like to see at the end of a novel) for Smith and for the slave characters, Zephyra and Achilles, but none for Tabitha. And no sense from the epilogue that any of her potential was realized in her later life either -- she seemed to have gone from being an unhappy girl to an unhappy old woman who continued to alienate most people.

3. From very early on in the novel there is a mystery about Smith's mission, which isn't resolved until the end of the penultimate chapter. Did you find that frustrating? Was the nature of the mission a satisfying conclusion?

I loved the sense of mystery, even though it was sometimes frustrating to have Smith as a point of view character who wasn't giving us his whole point of view. That's a bit of a narrative trick, to let the reader see inside his head but still withhold important pieces of information, but I thought it was well done here.

The truth unfolded gradually, I thought. After Smith's first stay in prison, narrated through the letter to his father, we know his big secret, that he is (presumably) 1/4 African, although he passes as white. That revelation, coupled with his visceral reaction to his fellow-prisoner's horrible story about the torture and death of the slaves, made me pretty sure that he was going to spend the thousand pounds on some sort of scheme to buy up and free slaves.

It's after he comes out of prison that he's having a conversation with the merchants about what sort of goods he would accept payment in, and he casually asks how many slaves you could buy with that money, then says he's not really interested in slaves. I was wishing that conversation had come earlier in the book, before we knew about Smith's own racial heritage, so that it wouldn't have been as obvious a hint. But overall I thought the mystery was well sustained, and revealed in a satisfying way, although obviously the reader was privy to some knowledge that enabled us to figure it out much sooner than the other characters did.

4. In the final chapter we find out that the apparently nearly omniscient narrator is in fact Tabitha. Did you think that twist works? Are there any scenes that strike you differently in that light?

OK, this is where the rant begins. I hated, hated, hated the epilogue. I had enjoyed reading this book so much that when I was near the end, I put it aside till later in the evening to finish and enjoy before bed when I'd have no distractions. So having put off the ending to be savoured I was, first, disappointed that Tabitha didn't run off with Smith after he made that absolutely wonderful speech to her about loving both the woman and the cage. I know it was realistic that she might not have gone, but I was hoping that we would get the ending that both honoured the romance and Tabitha as a character, giving her a way out of her cage.

Then I saw the epilogue was set nearly 70 years later and narrated by Tabitha, and I thought the ending could be redeemed. Maybe she did run off right after the last chapter ended, follow Smith and the slaves and end up with them after all. Or maybe she didn't, but she was inspired by her experience with Smith to escape her cage another way, and do something interesting with her life (within the confines available to a woman in colonial and Revolutionary-era America, obviously).

I hated the fact that we got no denouement on what happened to Smith and the slaves. I hated that Tabitha never got out of the cage, but was bitter and lonely to the end. And I hated, hated, hated the narrative twist of having Tabitha write the story, because it means that, in story terms, anything that was told from Smith's point of view is pure fiction. I mean, I realize the whole book is fiction, but that made it fiction within the story itself. All Smith's thoughts and motivations, everything that happened in the duel, everything in prison, his entire friendship with Septimus ... if Tabitha made all that up then in terms of the story, it basically never happened, or might not have happened.

I hated this ending so much I decided the only way I could cope with it, in a book I otherwise loved so much, was to ignore it. That's the ending the author wanted, but I don't accept his choice. In my world, the story is told by a proper omniscient narrator, and Tabitha ran away with Smith. I know that's cheating but I can't deal with it otherwise; it makes me too angry.

It's possible I got a teensy bit too involved with this book.

I have more to say on other aspects of the book, including responses to the last two discussion questions and some other thoughts, but this has been enough of a rant for now and I'm anxious to see what others will say about the book.

--------------------
Books and things.

I lied. There are no things. Just books.

Posts: 7238 | From: Closer to Paris than I am to Vancouver | Registered: Mar 2004  |  IP: Logged
Tree Bee

Ship's tiller girl
# 4033

 - Posted      Profile for Tree Bee   Email Tree Bee   Send new private message       Edit/delete post   Reply with quote 
(Posting before I read any other comments!)

1. Was it fun?

I wouldn't say it was fun, no. At times the writing was spectacular, I'm thinking for example of a passage where a poker stoking a fire was described to wonderful effect. So I appreciated parts of it greatly, but fun, no.

2. The novel is among other things a love story. Were you rooting for Smith and Tabitha? Or were you thinking the relationship would be a disaster?

I thought they seemed suited and expected they might engage in some way! But my romantic hopes were dashed. I saw her as Jenna Coleman btw.

3. From very early on in the novel there is a mystery about Smith's mission, which isn't resolved until the end of the penultimate chapter. Did you find that frustrating? Was the nature of the mission a satisfying conclusion?

His reticence was frustrating, and I didn't understand all the stuff with the promisary (sp?) note and the financial business . So in my mind there was a fog of incomprehension about that.
The conclusion was surprising and welcome.

4. In the final chapter we find out that the apparently nearly omniscient narrator is in fact Tabitha. Did you think that twist works? Are there any scenes that strike you differently in that light?

Well, just how did she know all this? She wasn't there, or communicating with him. It really didn't work and cast a shadow over the book. Was a bit like Bobby Ewing coming out of the shower and ,oh, it was all a dream.

5. Did anything strike you as interesting or comment-worthy in the depiction of eighteenth century New York? For example, New York society? prisons? duelling? anything else?

I don't know New York at all. I wondered if Broad Street is now Broadway.

6. The reviews compare this to 18th century novels, in particular Smollett. Has anyone here read Smollett? (I haven't.) If you have, do you agree?

No, haven't read him.

--------------------
"Any fool can make something complicated. It takes a genius to make it simple."
— Woody Guthrie
http://saysaysay54.wordpress.com

Posts: 5180 | From: me to you. | Registered: Feb 2003  |  IP: Logged
Sarasa
Shipmate
# 12271

 - Posted      Profile for Sarasa   Email Sarasa   Send new private message       Edit/delete post   Reply with quote 
1. Was it fun?
I thought it was in some way, I admired the Spufford's audacity in writing it the way he did for most of the book, and some of the scenes were great, the card playing one springs to mind. However my heart was in my mouth over what was going to happen next a lot of the time, so it wasn't exactly comfortable, and I had to stop reading after the duel scene for a bit as that was so shocking.

2. The novel is among other things a love story. Were you rooting for Smith and Tabitha? Or were you thinking the relationship would be a disaster?
I really thought they were going to end up together, though I'm not sure how wise that would have been.

3. From very early on in the novel there is a mystery about Smith's mission, which isn't resolved until the end of the penultimate chapter. Did you find that frustrating? Was the nature of the mission a satisfying conclusion?
Like Tree Bee I was confused about promissory ntoes etc and exactly how the financial transaction would work. The conclusion was satisfying, but I wanted to know what they went and did next. Perish in the snow, set up a village somewhere in the Catskills, all emmigrate to England?

4. In the final chapter we find out that the apparently nearly omniscient narrator is in fact Tabitha. Did you think that twist works? Are there any scenes that strike you differently in that light?
I don't think this worked as a device, and very nearly ruined the whole book for me. Maybe I'll think differently on a re-read, but I think an unnamed omnipotent narrator would have sufficed.

5. Did anything strike you as interesting or comment-worthy in the depiction of eighteenth century New York? For example, New York society? prisons? duelling? anything else?
I was very much struck at how small the place was, and the amount of Dutch culture there was. It seemed pretty convincing.

6. The reviews compare this to 18th century novels, in particular Smollett. Has anyone here read Smollett? (I haven't.) If you have, do you agree?
I haven't either, but I might now.

I have a couple of questions.
Did we find out who nicked Smith's pocket book and money in the beginning? I thought that we were gong to find out at the end that it was Tabitha in disguise.
Also did anyone have a favourite character? I really liked Septimus and thought the scenes between him and Smith, specially the one where Smith talks him into acting in the play were great.

--------------------
Previously Gussie.
Newt fancier turned goldfish

Posts: 1710 | From: London | Registered: Jan 2007  |  IP: Logged
Dafyd
Shipmate
# 5549

 - Posted      Profile for Dafyd   Email Dafyd   Send new private message       Edit/delete post   Reply with quote 
quote:
Originally posted by Sarasa:
Did we find out who nicked Smith's pocket book and money in the beginning? I thought that we were gong to find out at the end that it was Tabitha in disguise.

We never find out for certain. But Septimus tells Smith not to pursue the matter. And then De Lancey, the judge, sits Smith down to a game of cards at which Smith wins a surprisingly large sum of money without De Lancey really seeming to mind.
I think De Lancey loses the game deliberately. That means he knows Smith is out of funds, which means he knows that the pocket book was stolen. The most likely explanation is that De Lancey found out that the governor had arranged for the pocket book to be stolen and arranged for Smith to get the money back. Although I prefer to think De Lancey had it stolen to find out what Smith would do, and then returned the money.

--------------------
we remain, thanks to original sin, much in love with talking about, rather than with, one another. Rowan Williams

Posts: 9859 | From: Edinburgh | Registered: Feb 2004  |  IP: Logged
Trudy Scrumptious

BBE Shieldmaiden
# 5647

 - Posted      Profile for Trudy Scrumptious   Author's homepage   Email Trudy Scrumptious   Send new private message       Edit/delete post   Reply with quote 
I didn't even think of it at the time, because I was so caught up in the ending of the story, but I do feel that was a bit of a loose end. When Septimus told Smith not to ask any further about the thief, it seemed pretty clear to me there was going to be a big revelation about that later -- and while most of the mysteries of the story were explained by the end, that one was sort of left to the side.

--------------------
Books and things.

I lied. There are no things. Just books.

Posts: 7238 | From: Closer to Paris than I am to Vancouver | Registered: Mar 2004  |  IP: Logged
Jane R
Shipmate
# 331

 - Posted      Profile for Jane R   Email Jane R   Send new private message       Edit/delete post   Reply with quote 
<averts eyes from potential spoilers in discussion>

Doesn't look as if I'm going to get my copy from the library before the end of the month. Still keeping my fingers crossed, but I'm 3rd in the reservation queue and judging by past experience, everybody else in the York area reads at geological speed...

Posts: 3417 | Registered: May 2001  |  IP: Logged
Baptist Trainfan
Shipmate
# 15128

 - Posted      Profile for Baptist Trainfan   Email Baptist Trainfan   Send new private message       Edit/delete post   Reply with quote 
Just finished it (thereby avoiding the payment of library fine!)

I loved it and, unlike others, quite liked the Epilogue. I did think that the author (Spufford, that is) was trying to make some philosophical point about reality and ficton but I wasn't quite sure what it is!

I don't usually like historical novels but I loved this. I must say that, from its description, New-York sounded a lot bigger than its declared size - in England today, 7000 wouldn't be more than a pretty small market town, certainly not a city.

I've read most of Spufford's books and liked them all. This one would make a wonderful BBC historical drama!

Posts: 8419 | From: East of Greenwich | Registered: Sep 2009  |  IP: Logged
Trudy Scrumptious

BBE Shieldmaiden
# 5647

 - Posted      Profile for Trudy Scrumptious   Author's homepage   Email Trudy Scrumptious   Send new private message       Edit/delete post   Reply with quote 
Baptist Trainfan, can you say a little more about why you liked the Epilogue? Since I hated it with such a burning passion, I'm interested in how other readers viewed it differently.

I think the fact that a town of 7,000 felt like a city, even a small city, has to do with both place and time. Cities weren't as large then as they are now, so 7,000 could still be a population centre. And if it were the largest such centre in the area, it would still take on the characteristics of a "city." (I find this is true even today; my hometown of 150,000 feels like a city because it's by far the biggest in the province, while a city of the same size elsewhere in Canada, on the outskirts of a city of 2-3 million, feels like a suburban town in terms of amenities and activities).

New York would certainly have been one of the larger centres in the American colonies at that time, though not the largest -- I note that Boston, at the same time, had about 15,000 people, so it would have been twice the size of New York. But of course travel being what it was, Boston and New York would have felt a lot further apart then than they do now.

Another thing I was curious about was the historicity of Smith's mission. I don't have the book in front of my now, but I seem to recall that in the banker's letter explaining everything at the end, they said that Smith attended a congregation that had something to do with the Countess of Huntingdon's Connextion? But the year (1746) seems a bit early for that, and I can't find (through a cursory google-search not real research) any link between the C of H group and either black congregations or abolitionists. Is the group that Smith is described as being a part of a real thing, historically speaking, and would they have supported a mission like Smith's? If so, to what end would they have been buying/freeing these slaves? What was the intended goal? I find it irritating enough that we don't find out what actually happened to Smith and the freed slaves, but we don't even seem to find out for sure what was supposed to happen -- where Smith intended to take them.

--------------------
Books and things.

I lied. There are no things. Just books.

Posts: 7238 | From: Closer to Paris than I am to Vancouver | Registered: Mar 2004  |  IP: Logged
Sarasa
Shipmate
# 12271

 - Posted      Profile for Sarasa   Email Sarasa   Send new private message       Edit/delete post   Reply with quote 
Trudy Scrumptious said:
quote:
Smith attended a congregation that had something to do with the Countess of Huntingdon's Connextion? But the year (1746) seems a bit early for that, and I can't find (through a cursory google-search not real research) any link between the C of H group and either black congregations or abolitionists. Is the group that Smith is described as being a part of a real thing, historically speaking, and would they have supported a mission like Smith's? If so, to what end would they have been buying/freeing these slaves? What was the intended goal? I find it irritating enough that we don't find out what actually happened to Smith and the freed slaves, but we don't even seem to find out for sure what was supposed to happen -- where Smith intended to take them.
I've just checked with my copy and it was the Countess of Malmsbury's Abyssinian Connection. Something I guess Spufford based on the Countess of Hintingdon's Connection, but I assume fictional. There appear to be some groups working against slavery at the time, the Quakers for instance, so there may have been similar groups to the one Smith belongs to that little is now known about. Spufford is a historian and I guess he wouldn't introduce anything to his story that wasn't at least plausible for the time frame.
It is a major failing of the book that we don't know what happens. The ending is still annoying me greatly.

[Fixed link - T]

[ 25. January 2017, 15:11: Message edited by: Tubbs ]

--------------------
Previously Gussie.
Newt fancier turned goldfish

Posts: 1710 | From: London | Registered: Jan 2007  |  IP: Logged
Baptist Trainfan
Shipmate
# 15128

 - Posted      Profile for Baptist Trainfan   Email Baptist Trainfan   Send new private message       Edit/delete post   Reply with quote 
quote:
Originally posted by Trudy Scrumptious:
Baptist Trainfan, can you say a little more about why you liked the Epilogue? Since I hated it with such a burning passion, I'm interested in how other readers viewed it differently.

I agree with the folk who say that it was just too easy to let Smith and co. disappear into the snow (more of a filmic ending than a literary one IMO).

I suppose I generally quite like retrospectives - like the one Hiram Hickam gives at the end of "Rocket Boys" (where the author seems to have been unsure which ending of two to use, so has cobbled together both). To me Tabitha is one of the more interesting characters of the book and, besides wanting to know what happened to her,I enjoyed her philosophising. We are not only left asking, "What happened to Smith?" but also "Did it really happen like that?" and even "Did it happen at all?" - after all, Tabitha says that she is not going to tell us where truth ends and fiction began.

Now that is intensely frustrating to those of us who like to tie up all our loose ends. But it shows the difficulty of finding things out in the old days, it asks questions about the nature and durability of "real" knowledge, and it interrogates the very nature of fiction itself.

[ 24. January 2017, 15:29: Message edited by: Baptist Trainfan ]

Posts: 8419 | From: East of Greenwich | Registered: Sep 2009  |  IP: Logged
Dafyd
Shipmate
# 5549

 - Posted      Profile for Dafyd   Email Dafyd   Send new private message       Edit/delete post   Reply with quote 
quote:
Originally posted by Dafyd:
1. Was it fun?

Mostly it was fun. Poor Septimus though.

quote:
2. The novel is among other things a love story. Were you rooting for Smith and Tabitha? Or were you thinking the relationship would be a disaster?
I was rooting for them. But then I always root for romantic relationships.
I suspect though that what makes a relationship interesting in a novel generally makes it a disaster waiting to happen in real life.

I suppose it's bound up with whether Tabitha is someone who self-sabotages her chances of happiness. Which we all sometimes do, but seldom so overtly or decisively.

quote:
3. From very early on in the novel there is a mystery about Smith's mission, which isn't resolved until the end of the penultimate chapter. Did you find that frustrating? Was the nature of the mission a satisfying conclusion?
I thought it worked for me. It's more morally satisfying to be told that we've been witnessing a campaign to free slaves, especially as Smith has been doing some morally dubious things to that end.
It's interesting in that it makes Smith's race simultaneously the most important thing about him, and the least important.

quote:
4. In the final chapter we find out that the apparently nearly omniscient narrator is in fact Tabitha. Did you think that twist works? Are there any scenes that strike you differently in that light?
It's counterintuitive that the switch from an omniscient narrator to a narrator who is actually part of the action should be take us out of the narrative illusion. But it does.

Still I liked it. It feels fair, and it makes us rethink the story and scenes from a different angle. It's not entirely Tabitha making things up that she doesn't know but partly Tabitha trying to understand what went on so much time ago. So we've got an ostensible plot of Smith trying to understand Tabitha, and another silent plot of Tabitha trying to understand Smith.
One thing it means is that Tabitha hasn't just wasted her life unmarried. She's a novelist. And an older contemporary of Austen, who was also unmarried.

There are three occasions I think that the narrator professes that she doesn't understand the details of what's going on in the story - the card game, the duel, and another. Which are fun jokes when we read them the first time, and clues.

I do wonder whether there's one occasion where Tabitha actually lies or deliberately withholds something without telling us. There's a hint - a reference to the shadow on Smith's skin - that the mob that picks on Smith as a papist actually picks on him because they've seen he's mixed-race.

quote:
5. Did anything strike you as interesting or comment-worthy in the depiction of eighteenth century New York? For example, New York society? prisons? duelling? anything else?
It is actually quite small. The busy streets are busy, but there are relatively few characters, and the high society all fits in the church.

quote:
6. The reviews compare this to 18th century novels, in particular Smollett. Has anyone here read Smollett? (I haven't.) If you have, do you agree?
It does remind me a bit of Fielding. There's also an admiring reference to Sterne - in the church scene - which I think might count as forewarning that the narrator may be up to some metafictional tricks.

--------------------
we remain, thanks to original sin, much in love with talking about, rather than with, one another. Rowan Williams

Posts: 9859 | From: Edinburgh | Registered: Feb 2004  |  IP: Logged
Helen-Eva
Shipmate
# 15025

 - Posted      Profile for Helen-Eva   Email Helen-Eva   Send new private message       Edit/delete post   Reply with quote 
Running considerably behind everyone else I've just finished the book. Not because it took me long to read (I started it yesterday and was gripped) but my order only turned up relatively recently....

Anyway, if I may join the party this late on:

Yes, it was fun, specially the first half and (if I may take the questions in the wrong order) CONSIDERABLY more fun and easier going than 18th century novels I've read. I haven't read Smollett himself but Sterne is the weirdest rambling oddity I have every come across. Henry Fielding's nearer the mark but he wouldn't have put in serious stuff like Septimus' death (I don't think - I'm not exactly a scholar of Fielding...).

Was I rooting for Smith and Tabitha? Kind of. Unlike others here I thought Tabitha was never the kind of character who was made for a happy ending. Her mental disturbance seemed clinical to me and there would be no fix this side of modern psychiatric medicine. So while I would have liked it all to work out happily, I wouldn't have believed it. I'm pretty sure from the Epilogue that Tabitha has spent her life in some kind of mental institution/confinement.

Smith's mission - I thought it was about freeing slaves from early on, and so it (mercifully) proved to be. I would have been annoyed if it hadn't been.

I'm not sure about Tabitha as narrator. If this is a genuine 18th century novel style then the narrator can be omniscient AND in the story without getting too bothered by the contradiction. Tristram Shandy spends the whole story telling you about what his family said and did at the time of his birth which he clearly cannot actually KNOW about. So I think the story was like that - the narrator really was omniscient and really was a character in the story and it doesn't matter that those two things are mutually incompatible.

I was struck by the smallness, Dutchness and royalist-ness of New York. Oh, and all the weird paper money from different states.

I wonder whether the Smith and freed slaves disappearing off into the sunset ending is to enable the author to write a sequel? Maybe about the life of Zephyra's baby?

--------------------
I thought the radio 3 announcer said "Weber" but it turned out to be Webern. Story of my life.

Posts: 557 | From: London, hopefully in a theatre or concert hall, more likely at work | Registered: Aug 2009  |  IP: Logged
venbede
Shipmate
# 16669

 - Posted      Profile for venbede   Email venbede   Send new private message       Edit/delete post   Reply with quote 
I hope to read this soon.

--------------------
Man was made for joy and woe;
And when this we rightly know,
Thro' the world we safely go.

Posts: 3105 | From: An historic market town nestling in the folds of Surrey's rolling North Downs, | Registered: Sep 2011  |  IP: Logged
Jane R
Shipmate
# 331

 - Posted      Profile for Jane R   Email Jane R   Send new private message       Edit/delete post   Reply with quote 
Ah, the thread for this still exists! In that case I'll repost my comments here:

Finally got to read Golden Hill by Francis Spufford which was January's book group choice. Far too late to join in the discussion, of course, but I did enjoy it (although I skipped over some of the waffly bits, excessively verbose eighteenth-century novels not really being my thing).

Several things I liked:

1. Meticulous research - all of it rang true, and it's so difficult to get the language right in historical pastiches even if you have the period details correct. Not a false note anywhere.

2. [SPOILER ALERTS]


Yes, I did begin to suspect the hero was an abolitionist about two-thirds of the way through, so the twist at the end wasn't too much of a surprise. His backstory sounded plausible too.

3. I liked - perhaps liked is the wrong word, approved of - the way Tabitha's story was resolved. Yes, maybe she would have had a better life if she'd trusted Mr Smith and gone off with him - but maybe when she found out his grandfather was black she'd have turned around and gone straight home again. Or married him and made his life a misery. It made sense that she would have chosen the life she knew, even though she hated it.

And I did briefly wonder - when reading the scene where he meets the three young women for the first time - whether he would end up going off with the slave...

4. It would be nice in a way to know what happened next to the group of freed slaves; but maybe it's better to have that last picture of them bravely setting off into the unknown to claim their freedom, without ever finding out exactly what they made of it. Also... I blush to admit it, but I completely missed the thing about Tabitha being the narrator rather than Smith. I assumed that most of the book was narrated by the Mind of God (all-seeing, all-knowing impersonal narrator) and only the epilogue was narrated by Tabitha. That does explain why Smith got so worked up about inadvertently losing Tabitha her part in the play, though.

[Could some kind Host delete my Golden Hill post from the general 2017 book thread please? Then everything will be tidy.]

[ 06. March 2017, 15:12: Message edited by: Jane R ]

Posts: 3417 | Registered: May 2001  |  IP: Logged
venbede
Shipmate
# 16669

 - Posted      Profile for venbede   Email venbede   Send new private message       Edit/delete post   Reply with quote 
On the home straight. It is very much a C21 novel with lots pf C18 details. My view is that only an C18 inhabitant of New York could tell how convincing it is historically and that isn't very important. The thing is how the novelists uses the period detail, and here it is done with wit and imagination.

--------------------
Man was made for joy and woe;
And when this we rightly know,
Thro' the world we safely go.

Posts: 3105 | From: An historic market town nestling in the folds of Surrey's rolling North Downs, | Registered: Sep 2011  |  IP: Logged


 
Post new thread  Post a reply Close thread   Feature thread   Move thread   Delete thread Next oldest thread   Next newest thread
 - Printer-friendly view
Go to:

Contact us | Ship of Fools | Privacy statement

© Ship of Fools 2016

Powered by Infopop Corporation
UBB.classicTM 6.5.0

 
Check out Reform magazine
sip of fools mugs from your favourite nautical website
 
  ship of fools