Golden Boys begins with the arrival of the Jenson family into a working class suburb of Melbourne. Despite their more obvious trappings of wealth, the two Jenson boys, Colt and Bastian, attempt to manoeuvre their way through this unsettling milieu of new families and neighbourhood kids.
Chief among them are the Kileys, Joe and Elizabeth and their six children, including twelve-year old Freya, whose complex relationship with Colt and his father Rex forms one of the many strands of this short but densely narrated story. Set sometime around 1980, Hartnett's novel depicts a world of childhood that is far from innocent. Her children, away from prying adult eyes, inhabit a timeless domain of backyard swimming pools, bike rides through suburban streets, of cruel teasing and bullying, and all-too knowing conversations.
While the novel touches upon themes of domestic violence, its genuine darkness centres on the ambiguous relationship between Colt’s father, Rex, and the other neighbourhood boys.
Hartnett's beautifully written novel, rendered in a seamless and rhythmic prose, is full of mystery and tension. She evokes not just the uncertainty and confusion of childhood, but also the complicated rituals children act out as they navigate a path to adulthood.