Penelope Fitzgerald's novel, The Golden Child, combines a deft comedy of manners with a classic mystery set in London's most refined institution—the museum. When the glittering treasure of ancient Garamantia, the golden child, is delivered to the museum, a web of intrigue tightens around its personnel, especially the hapless museum officer Waring Smith. While prowling the halls one night, Waring is nearly strangled. Two suspicious deaths ensue, and only the cryptic hieroglyphics of the Garamantes can bring an end to the mayhem. Fitzgerald has an unerring eye for human nature, and this satirical look at the art world delivers a terrifically witty read.
|Publisher:||Houghton Mifflin Harcourt|
|Edition description:||1ST MARINE|
|Product dimensions:||5.50(w) x 8.25(h) x 0.46(d)|
About the Author
PENELOPE FITZGERALD wrote many books small in size but enormous in popular and critical acclaim over the past two decades. Over 300,000 copies of her novels are in print, and profiles of her life appeared in both The New Yorker and The New York Times Magazine. In 1979, her novel Offshore won Britain's Booker Prize, and in 1998 she won the National Book Critics Circle Prize for The Blue Flower. Though Fitzgerald embarked on her literary career when she was in her 60's, her career was praised as "the best argument ... for a publishing debut made late in life" (New York Times Book Review). She told the New York Times Magazine, "In all that time, I could have written books and I didn’t. I think you can write at any time of your life." Dinitia Smith, in her New York Times Obituary of May 3, 2000, quoted Penelope Fitzgerald from 1998 as saying, "I have remained true to my deepest convictions, I mean to the courage of those who are born to be defeated, the weaknesses of the strong, and the tragedy of misunderstandings and missed opportunities, which I have done my best to treat as comedy, for otherwise how can we manage to bear it?"
Date of Birth:December 17, 1916
Date of Death:May 3, 2000
Place of Birth:Lincoln, England
Place of Death:London, England
Education:Somerville College, Oxford University, 1939
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
Penelope Fitzgerald is a British novelist who did not begin publishing until she was in her sixties, but who eventually won England¿s top literary award, the Booker Prize, as well as the National Book Critics Award in this country. Her first book, The Golden Child, is a mystery based on the Tutankhamen exhibition which came to London¿s British Museum in 1972. But the museum in the book is not quite the British Museum, though it resembles it, the Golden Child of the title, a gold-encrusted mummy, is not quite Tutankhamen, his country of origin is not Egypt but Garamantia, and the museum director is not quite Lord Kenneth Clark, though he looks and acts like him. And unlike the Tutankhamen exhibit, this one turns out to be a fake; the thousands of people in folded queues in the famous courtyard are unaware that the mummy in the gilded sarcophagus is not the adolescent king but a much more modern corpse covered with gold-leaf.The quirky staff of the museum, besides the Kenneth Clark look-alike, includes a precious aristocrat his coworkers call the May Queen, a ubiquitous assistant known only as Jones¿whose name turns out to be Jones Jones¿the cantankerous old Sir William, discoverer of the real treasure of the Golden Child, and Sir William¿s sleepy, insouciant, six-month¿s pregnant secretary Dousha Vartarian. [check names, etc]Fitzgerald shows a Dickensian playfulness about names, such as that of Professor Untermensch, the expert on hieroglyphics. The book has a parody Frenchman, a sort of combination of Jacques Derrida and Claude Levi-Strauss. There¿s a little touch of P. G. Wodehouse and more than a little reminder of Waugh as the museum employee at the bottom of the food chain is the one singled out for a trip to Moscow that is filled with intrigue and eventually uncovers the real Golden Child artifacts and the international Cold War politics that dictate that a fake one be sent to england. The British Diplomat of the donor country for the exhibit, is, according to the museum director, ¿Pombo Greene, whom I have known, since he was in my election at Eton, to be exceptionally foolish and incompetent.¿ The book has an orthodox mystery plot with a couple of murders, but its strength is social comedy, and its conclusion is a farcical scene which satisfies our desire for poetic justice. Fitzgerald died in 2002, shortly after this book was reissued in a Mariner paperback. It¿s her only mystery.
Penelope Fitzgerald is one of my favorite authors, so I was initially surprised at the unevenness of this book. It swings between satire and murder mystery, with a bit of hapless espionage thrown in. When I realized that this was her first novel, it made much more sense. It may not be as good as her later novels, but this was an amusing read and an enjoyable send-up of the personalities to be found in museums and cultural heritage institutions.
I almost judged this book by it's ugly cover, but I'm glad I didn't. I enjoyed the type of humor presented here. And I appreciated that it was a murder mystery without being graphic and gross like many newer books are. Sometimes I was a little confused about what was going on or where it was going, but I enjoyed reading this book.
Witty, sly, economical writing. Array of characters come to life with realistic charm, deceit, arrogance. anything and everything...all types ofpersonalities. So many jabs and satiric woundings along with spinning the murder plot, create a rare, exceptional read.
For a book that is less than 200 pages long, the 'grab' should have happened within the first 25-50 pages. By page 120 I was still waiting and finished the book out of sympathy for the characters who were flat and lifeless.