Published in December 2015 issue of Prospect Magazine
by Jane Smiley (Mantle, £18.99)
In past volumes of Jane Smiley’s Last Hundred Years trilogy—about the descendants of an Iowan farming family—the absence of any unifying voice or plot device left you curious about the author’s purpose amid the many local pleasures of her rich social panorama.
Smiley’s new novel Golden Age—the title is ironic—concludes the multi-generational chronicle as a parable of American decline. Like the excellent Some Luckand Early
Warning (reviewed in Prospect’s Summer fiction special) it proceeds in year-tagged
segments, this time from 1987 to 2019. The killing of a child at a military checkpoint scars an Iraq veteran; scandal unseats a
congressman whose trader brother is caught pocketing funds before the 2008 crash. His greed is a key source of drama as he betrays a cousin struggling to save the old farm from rapacious agribusiness.