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English: Unit 2 and Unit 3 & 4: The Golden Age

Analysing arguments and presenting a point of view

Joan London

The Golden Age (2014), Joan London’s third novel, won the Prime Minister’s Literary Award for fiction, the Kibble Literary Award, the Western Australian Premier’s Award for fiction and the Queensland Literary Award for fiction, and was shortlisted for the Miles Franklin Literary Award, the Stella Prize, the ALS Gold Medal and the Christina Stead Prize for fiction in the NSW Premier’s Literary Awards.

In 2015, Joan London was named a Western Australian State Living Treasure, and was also the recipient of the Patrick White Award, for a lifetime's 'outstanding contribution to Australian literature'. The judges described her body of work as 'quiet, poetic prose [that] opens up worlds, both real and imagined, of travel, desire, loss and love . . . London’s nomadic characters travel through space and time affirming through their relationships and varied histories a global humanity.'

Historical background

The Queen in Australia. (3 Clips of documentary footage of the Queen's visit to Australia in 1954). Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II and her husband Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh, arrive in Sydney aboard the Royal ship SS Gothic, to be greeted at Farm Cove by Prime Minister Robert Menzies, and the Governor-General, Sir William Slim. The royal barge arrives at the wharf through a flotilla of small craft, and the quays along the harbour are packed with wellwishers. As she comes ashore, the film offers a quick summary of the nation – nine million people, spread across six states. A short scene characterises each state before we return to the official welcome in Sydney.

"No feast for fear of contagion" (State records of Western Australia). The Queen’s Australian visit occurred in February/March – the summer months known to be a time of maximum activity for the Polio virus.  Soon, Perth newspaper reports of the progress of the Royal Tour were joined by stories about a Polio epidemic.

Writing in Third Person

Reviews

Kerryn Goldsworthy reviews "The Golden Age" by Joan London. (Australian Book Review, September, 2014)

Fully presented, utterly connected by Tegan Bennett Daylight , Sydney Review of Books, 31st October 2014

The Golden Age by Joan London reviewed by Brenda Walker, The Monthly, November 2014.

Interview of Joan London by Jane Sullivan of The Sydney Morning Herald, August 8th, 2014.

Joan London's The Golden Age: a novel of polio and childhood, Thursday 2nd October, 2014, The ABC. (Download the audio of the interveiw)

The Golden Age Joan London review by Julie McLean, December 21st, 2015 of the London Review

The Golden Age review: A tough intelligent story of displacement by Elieen Battersby, The Irish Times, August  20th, 2016 (Joan London’s characters attempt to shape a communal present as Australia absorbs the effects of the polio epidemic that terrorised parents in the 1950s)

Polio

Memories of Polio and those who wrestled with it, December 7th, 2004, Article from the Sydney Morning Herald.

Polio days from Time frame (ABC)

Poliomyelitis (polio) Queensland Government Health Conditions Directory (Causes, symptoms and cure)

June Middleton

Robbed of movement, the dance of life goes on, struck down by polio in her 20s, June Middleton had to revise her plans, writes Michelle Hamer. SMH December 29th, 2008

The Golden Age

It is 1954 and thirteen-year-old Frank Gold, refugee from wartime Hungary, is learning to walk again after contracting polio in Australia. At the Golden Age Children’s Polio Convalescent Home in Perth, he sees Elsa, a fellow patient, and they form a forbidden, passionate bond. The Golden Age becomes the little world that reflects the larger one, where everything occurs: love and desire, music, death, and poetry. It is a place where children must learn they’re alone, even within their families.

Subtle, moving and remarkably lovely, The Golden Age evokes a time past and a yearning for deep connection, from one of Australia’s finest and most-loved novelists.

Themes

Family

Love

Polio

Suffering

Parenting

Isolation

Poetry

War

Friendship

Creative responses