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The Golden Rule Reviews

The Golden Rule  by Amanda Craig

The Golden Rule

Amanda Craig

4.13 out of 5

12 reviews

Publisher: Little, Brown
Publication date: 11 Jun 2020
ISBN: 9781408711521

When Hannah is invited into the First-Class carriage of the London to Penzance train by Jinni, she walks into a spider's web. Now a poor young single mother, Hannah once escaped Cornwall to go to university. But once she married Jake and had his child, her dreams were crushed into bitter disillusion.

  • The BooksellerEditor's Choice
5 stars out of 5
Alice O'Keeffe
6 Mar 2020

"had me turning the pages until the small hours"

Drawing on Patricia Highsmith's Strangers on a Train and the fairytale Beauty and the Beast, this is a terrific state-of-the-nation novel about the haves and have nots. Hannah is struggling; left by her financially abusive husband for another woman and barely making ends meet. On a train to Cornwall she meets wealthy Jinni, whose husband has also treated her badly-and over the course of their journey the two women agree to murder each other's husbands. What follows had me turning the pages until the small hours, quite unable to put it down.

Reviews

4 stars out of 5
25 Nov 2020

"Craig weaves an intricate web of lives, all varyingly at risk."

Protagonist Hannah, a single millennial with a young child, becomes embroiled with a rich woman on a train in a conspiracy to each murder the other’s ex-husband, and Craig weaves an intricate web of lives, all varyingly at risk. Cornwall is the story’s flickering, alluring backdrop, with its idyllic ragged coastline, hidden caves – and stark wealth divide.

3 stars out of 5
4 Aug 2020

"A heady mix of crime noir, social satire and Arthurian romance"

There are parts of Craig’s writing that fall flat. Her heroine often adopts an uncharacteristically priggish tone, describing beards as “nasty insanitary things’” and childbirth as “no picnic” – phrases that sit awkwardly in the mouth of a contemporary thirty-year-old. Her narrator’s disquisitions can seem ad hoc and high-handed. But these are minor irritations. The Golden Rule is at core an exquisite book, and a cheering one, placing its ultimate faith in the possibilities of redemption and regeneration.

4 stars out of 5
19 Jul 2020

"the plot and characters, which have been realised with the confidence and precision of the experienced novelist, are impressive."

However, the plot and characters, which have been realised with the confidence and precision of the experienced novelist, are impressive. Craig’s villains are despicably evil in a way I thought only fictional characters could be, until the afterword informed me that ‘every single aspect of violence I describe in this novel has happened in real life’. Con, Jinni’s husband, is a memorably well-rounded creation. A troubled virtuoso video game designer from an Iraqi Jewish family, Con has hidden depths – when you think you understand him, Craig plunges him into fresh complexity. The threads of her narrative are drawn together with such ease and efficiency that the second half of The Golden Rule appears to have been written quite effortlessly. There is a quantity of incident, of grand, dramatic occurrences, in Craig’s books that some contemporary realist writers shy away from, but personally, I’d take a well-constructed novel with plenty of incident and a carefully woven plot over one in which not much happens any day.

4 stars out of 5
Sue Gaisford
10 Jul 2020

"Craig is a writer at the top of her game."

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Craig is a writer at the top of her game. With the precision of a darts player, she can skewer an image at speed and move on: a 1970s varnished pine kitchen, for example, is like a sucked toffee; the spring countryside is “frothing, like milk coming to the boil”, and a little girl is “lovely as only a child with milk-teeth can be”. And there is, as ever, an acuity to her observations. “Those in the grip of misery and fury,” she writes, “long to unburden themselves: this is the secret of every organisation from the Church to social media.” The book’s title comes from a remark by George Bernard Shaw, who declared — rather annoyingly — that the golden rule is that there are no golden rules. Craig takes it one step further by quoting Oscar Wilde, whose gnomic conclusion elicits a regretful sigh: “One’s real life is so often the life that one does not lead.”

4 stars out of 5
4 Jul 2020

"Craig has the knack of creating interesting characters and of making one care about what lies in store for them"

Craig is an acute and passionate observer of society in both town and country, and among rich and poor. She is harrowingly good at portraying the corrosive effects of poverty, particularly on vulnerable women with children to protect. Her prose is a delight. (One elderly aristocrat has ‘teeth like faded yellow dusters’.) As is usual with her novels, the cast includes some minor characters who are familiar from earlier books, at different times and in different contexts. 

4 stars out of 5
30 Jun 2020

"Escapist and compelling"

All this might feel like the fantastic set-up for a psychological thriller: a good beach read, should there be a need for such a thing this summer. But Craig is interested in writing about the role of money and class in British society and extended sections of the novel owe more to Jane Austen or Joanna Trollope. Cliched references to avocado toast and Instagram aside, millennial Hannah makes for a naive and wistful modern heroine.

4 stars out of 5
Hephzibah Anderson
29 Jun 2020

"comfort and wit, compassion and philosophical stimulation"

With this year’s getaways so uncertain, summer reading feels less of an indulgence than a vital source of escape. Amanda Craig’s new novel, The Golden Rule, is an ideal contender for such times, offering comfort and wit, compassion and philosophical stimulation, all played out against the backdrop of Cornwall’s subtropical splendour.

4 stars out of 5
Mika Ross-Southall
28 Jun 2020

"a highly enjoyable story about female resilience and finding fulfilment on your own terms"

The Golden Rule is part of Craig’s interconnected series of novels examining the stark divide between rich and poor, countryside and city in contemporary Britain. Minor characters in her previous books become major characters in the next and vice versa. (Hannah first appeared fleetingly as a child in A Private Place, 1991.) These inspired overlaps create the feeling that everyone is knowingly or unknowingly linked. Even more reason, then, to “do as you would be done by”. That’s the “golden rule” worth holding on to, Hannah realises.

3 stars out of 5
27 Jun 2020

"What could be more fun than a book like this?"

Well. The set-up is deeply implausible, though as the book bubbles on and boils over there are twists and reversals that retrospectively help it all make more sense. At times the balance between comedy, social observation and plot feels uneven, but if you think of it as a big Dickensian mixing bowl of literary ingredients, it makes sense. All Craig’s novels are about how people connect with one another, which might sound blindingly obvious, but most writers limit the canvas of connections to a handful of people. Craig’s big cast of characters — extended family, old schoolfriends, new enemies — gives the book a rolling flow which manages to keep a handle on its themes of wealth, class and inequity while directing the story of Hannah and Jinni’s murder plot ever onward.

  • The GuardianBook of the Day
5 stars out of 5
Elizabeth Lowry
17 Jun 2020

" the ambitious scope of The Golden Rule is buttressed by an old-fashioned faith in the educative function of literature itself"

It is a lot for one book to take on, but the ambitious scope of The Golden Rule is buttressed by an old-fashioned faith in the educative function of literature itself. The story is packed with allusions to great novels by women, which serve as its moral touchstones. Like Lizzie Bennet, Hannah must overcome her adverse first impressions of Stan, and her reflex class assumptions, before they can have an authentic relationship. It’s Beauty and the Beast revamped, but then, that was Austen’s template in Pride and Prejudice too, and like Austen, Craig has a sharp eye for the inequalities and idiosyncrasies of British society... As its title suggests, The Golden Rule has that rare thing: an ethical framework that’s not just implied, but explicit, and is neatly summed up as “Do as you would be done by”. It may be implausible and fantastical, but it makes you want to live a better life.

  • The BooksellerEditor's Choice
4 stars out of 5
Alice O'Keeffe
6 Mar 2020

"'What follows had me turning the pages until the small hours'"

Drawing on Patricia Highsmith's Strangers on a Train and the fairytale Beauty and the Beast, this is a terrific state-of-the-nation novel about the haves and have nots. Hannah is struggling; left by her financially abusive husband for another woman and barely making ends meet. On a train to Cornwall she meets wealthy Jinni, whose husband has also treated her badly-and over the course of their journey the two women agree to murder each other's husbands. What follows had me turning the pages until the small hours, quite unable to put it down.