Frank Gold’s family, Hungarian jews, flee the perils of World War II for the safety of Australia, but not long after their arrival, thirteen-year-old Frank is diagnosed with polio. He is sent to a sprawling children’s hospital called The Golden Age, where he meets Elsa, the most beautiful girl he has ever seen, a girl who radiates pure light. Frank and Elsa fall in love, fueling one another’s rehabilitation, facing the perils of illness and adolescence hand in hand, and scandalizing the prudish staff of The Golden Age.
Frank and Elsa’s parents, too, must cope with their changing realities. Elsa’s mother Margaret, who has given up everything to be a perfect mother, must reconcile her hopes and dreams with her daughter’s sickness. Frank’s parents, transplants to Australia from a war-torn Europe, are isolated newcomers in a country that they do not love and that does not seem to love them. Frank’s mother Ida, a renowned pianist in Hungary, refuses to allow the western deserts of Australia to become her home. But her husband, Meyer, slowly begins to free himself from the past and integrate into a new society.
With tenderness and humor, The Golden Age tells a deeply moving story about illness, resilience and recovery. It is a book about learning to navigate the unfamiliar, about embracing music, poetry, death, and, most importantly, life.