Tuesday 11 November 2014

Golden Boys by Sonya Hartnett

I finished Golden Boys over a week ago.

Since then I have been all tangled up in how to write a review that would do this lovely, disturbing book about childhood and dysfunctional family justice.

After lots of false starts and editing, I've decided, like Sonya Hartnett, to keep it simple.

Golden Boys is a wonderful, touching, upsetting story about the end of childhood.
It follows the lives of a group of young 'golden' neighbourhood boys and one girl. But life, for them, is less than golden; and their familes are far from golden.

The golden boys are the statues on top of Colt's running trophies. They signify image, success, winning. They're stylized, idealised and symbolic. All that glitters is not gold. Appearances hide all kinds of perversions. Turning a blind eye doesn't mean that bad things don't happen.

Harnett implies much, but nothing is definitely declared. Things are hinted at, suggested & ignored. Tensions & suspicions build. Contradictions abound as the children grapple with the messiness & murkiness that is their parents' lives. A sense of foreboding hangs heavy.
What could be worse than a dad who is a violent drunk?
Unfortunately, there is a lot worse.

"You can't do anything except learn from his decisions, so that you'll be wiser about it when it comes to making your own. Perhaps that's one of the unsung gifts a parent gives a child: lessons in what not to do."

My only disappointment was the ending that didn't resolve or explain enough. I don't need everything to be wrapped up in a tidy little bow at the end, but I do need to feel that something has been resolved or someone redeemed. I like an ending that I can remember.

Instead I remember the beautiful language & imagery. And the glorious way that Hartnett evokes our shared Australian childhood environment.

"He rides in the centre of the vacant roads, the streetlights repeatedly finding him and letting him go."

I am a big fan of Hartnett's, & this, her first foray into adult literature, simply confirms my opinion.

This post is part of AusReading Month.


  1. I'm a big Sonya Hartnett fan too, although I need to read more of her books. Thanks for this review, it does sound intriguing, although I like endings where I know what's happened. Isn't that the point of a story? I can handle some ambiguity, but really don't like books where things are left hanging too much. I love that streetlight quote.


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