Book Review - Golden Age

by Jane Smiley (Pan Macmillan) ISBN: 9781447275701 

Golden Age is the final instalment in a trilogy about the Langdon family. It follows Some Luck, set a century ago, and Early Morning. Golden Age traverses 1987-2017. It is both a family drama and a political portrait of a changing America. 

Novels that open with a two-page family tree tend to intimidate me, but I soon abandoned referring to it as the characters emerged. The Langdon cast is vast but after immersing myself in the story (over three weeks), they became familiar and endearing. Richie Langdon, twin of Michael, rises to congress despite himself; Charlie is a late addition and somewhat misplaced; Jesse’s son, Guthrie chooses the army over farming, and his sister, Felicity must defend the land. Omniscient throughout is Andy, the benevolent matriarch. 

I haven’t read the preceding novels, so the first few chapters felt a bit like gate-crashing and eavesdropping at a cocktail party. Much of the American politics was unfamiliar. But Smiley writes scenes that reveal character so richly and beautifully, it’s no wonder she’s a Pulitzer Prize Winner (A Thousand Acres). Golden Age reveals poignant insights about growing old, loss, and continuity. It’s like a literary Dallas or Dynasty, but with farmers. Read it. 

Deborah Minors

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