Golden Boys

By Sonya Hartnett
Penguin Books


Sonya Hartnett

Judges' report


Children have their own rules and laws, separate and often secret from the adult world. This vividly imagined and quietly disturbing novel, focused on two neighbouring families, is about a group of boys on the cusp of adolescence, over a few weeks of summer. Sonya Hartnett shows the operations of the secret codes of children: their instinctive understanding and deft negotiation of each others’ personalities, and their struggles to understand and deal with adult treachery and abuse.

Hartnett has a brilliant gift for creating an atmosphere of menace, and she does not fear the dark. She explores the effects of bullying and manipulation, of drunken domestic violence and sinister predatory enticement. Differences of class, religion and income might affect the ways in which adult weakness manifests itself, but the flaws in all four parents from the Jenson and Kiley families create situations in which the children must make their own rules to survive.

Further reading


Reviews:

‘[Hartnett’s] prose is exquisitely crafted – simple, yet dense with meaning – and her portrayal of what it feels like to be a teenager, of the awkwardness and alienation that so often defines the bewildering transition to adulthood, is always compelling.’ – Victoria Flanagan, Sydney Review of Books

‘Sonya Hartnett is that rarest and most precious of writers: a reverse Peter Pan. Though the subject matter of her books is centrally concerned with the experience of childhood and youth, this has nothing to do with any refusal to grow up on the author’s part. Rather, her fictions insist that we, whether jaded adults or teenagers keen to escape an atmosphere of general humiliation, grow down: return to that era of our lives when skin was raw to philosophy and experience – when we were helplessly abraded by the storms of love and life.’ – AF, The Saturday Paper

‘Spanning only a scant few weeks, Golden Boys flows as easily as a bike ride on a summer afternoon. But within its effortless unfolding are sombre themes: of the neighbourhood’s acceptance of domestic violence, and its effects on children; of the way class and money can enable and protect a predator; and how resilient, vulnerable, opportunistic and courageous children can be.’ – Linda Funnell, Sydney Morning Herald

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