...[a] splendidly entertaining and ingenious first novel ... The third-person narrative voice, in era-appropriate style, is the book’s great comic triumph ... Throughout Golden Hill, Spufford creates vivid, painterly scenes of street and salon life, yet one never feels as though a historical detail has been inserted just because he knew about it. Here is deep research worn refreshingly lightly ... The whole thing, then, is a first-class period entertainment, until at length it becomes something more serious. The comedy gives way to darker tones, and Smith’s secret is at last revealed – but the novel, most pleasingly, still has one more trick up its sleeve.
...an ebullient, freewheeling historical fiction ... Its action is so vivid that you seem to be consuming (imagine Wolf Blitzer’s voice here) breaking news. Delirious storytelling backfilled with this much intelligence is a rare and happy sight ... he’s written a high-level entertainment, filled with so much brio that it’s as if each sentence had been dusted with Bolivian marching powder and cornstarch and gently fried. Some of this swashbuckling action goes over the top, but you will probably be turning the pages too quickly to register a complaint.
... his fiction debut is a merry homage to the great novels of the 18th century, a carefully-tuned echo of Tobias Smollett and Henry Fielding ... Spufford unfolds his subsequent adventures with a fine ear for the arch language of the day, and with a very satisfying feel for sly comedy ... As faithful, even sometimes slavish, as Golden Hill is to its great template novels of centuries ago, the book has a one-two combination of twists at the very end that would have been all but unthinkable to the likes of Sterne or Smollett. These twists are pure products of cinema, not literature – but even readers who tend to fume at such gimmicks will have built up such a store of affection for this terrific novel that they'll be inclined to forgive all. With Golden Hill Spufford adds another genre to an already impressive résumé.