Wednesday, November 22, 2017

THE GOLDEN AGE by Joan London

The title refers to a polio rehab facility for children in Perth, Australia, that really did exist in the 1950s.  The story centers around two fictional 13-year-olds, Frank and Elsa, who become close while they are both residents of the facility.  Other than that, honestly, not much happens.  The equally poignant backstory is that Frank’s family emigrated from Hungary during WWII, and neither of his parents has been able to embrace their new homeland.  Frank seems at times to be a bit ashamed of his parents’ reduced station in life, until his mother renews her interest in music and proves that she is still a virtuoso pianist, after having abandoned the piano when Frank contracted polio.  The book certainly brings into focus the many heartbreaks associated with polio.  The physical impact is obviously huge, as Frank and Elsa endure the pain of trying to walk again.  This book also emphasizes that people reacted to the victims in the same way as they have in the past to leprosy or AIDS.  The contagious aspect of the disease causes families to speculate on how their children became exposed to it, but, more importantly, outsiders keep not only the victims at arm’s length, but also their family members as well.  This book is short on plot but long on educating us as to the devastating impact of this disease before the vaccine was introduced.

No comments: