Sonya Hartnett’s Golden Boys is a novel of simmering tensions. Set in a sleepy small town, a new family, the Jensons, arrives and on the surface they seem perfect. Rex and Tabby and their boys Colt and Bastian (great names) have a clean, beautiful home and the boys have all the toys and games any child could want. But Colt lives his life on a knife edge, sick of his father and the way he ingratiates himself into the lives of others, particularly the other kids of the neighbourhood. Enter their neighbours, the Kileys. Joe is a drunkard and his wife, Elizabeth, barely tolerates his presence most of the time. They have six children and possibly another on the way. Freya aches to be rid of her father – he disgtusts her – and Syd and Declan wish they could stand up to him more.
This story concentrates on the minutiae of the lives of these two families and the friends of the children – Garrick and Avery. The characterisations are expertly drawn – no words wasted on flowery prose when simple imagery will do. As you delve deeper into the lives of the protagonists and those that surround them, you can feel the pressure building steadily. I only started this book yesterday and I picked it up today and had to keep going until I was at the end. I was expecting something to happen, and it did, but not in the way I expected. That is the genius of Hartnett – she leads you down a path and then diverts you to exactly where SHE wants you to go.
One passage in the book, where Freya asks her mother,”Why did you marry Dad?” is a total heartbreaker. I won’t go into more detail here, as I would consider it a spoiler, but there is a searing honesty in this conversation that took my breath away.
At the end of the book I just wanted to tell all the kids it would be okay, that the world IS a good place, but the whole point of the novel is them realising that it really isn’t – even if adults say it is. There are no neat resolutions here, nothing comforting apart from the knowledge that these children are stronger than they realise and that perhaps they are more empowered going forward.
Thank you, Sonya Hartnett, for giving us such a gift, and making it so compelling.
For ages 15 and up.