Penguin, $29.99 pb, 238 pp, 9781926428611
Sonya Hartnett writes for all ages, her work spanning children’s picture books to novels for young adults and adult readers. Her adult novels have been widely acclaimed; Of a Boy (2002) won the Age Book of the Year award and has been canonised as a Penguin Classic. In many ways, though, her pedigree as a much-awarded children’s writer has always characterised her career.
Golden Boys belongs with Of a Boy and the exquisite Butterfly (2009), novels for adults that document the sharp realities and murky undercurrents of suburban life from a child’s perspective. In these books, her narrators are frustrated by their inability to control their own circumstances, and are marked by their heightened observations of the world’s workings as they come to grips with their universe. Certain truths we have forgotten to question or notice are brought to light in the gaps between her child-narrators’ naïve observations and their burgeoning powers of analysis. Hartnett’s narrators and her readers bridge that gap of understanding, gradually piecing together clues and matching them with their significance, forming a cohesive narrative as the novels build to their climaxes.