The Golden Hour

$17.95 inc. GST

by: Claire Belberg

190 pages
129mm x 198mm
ISBN: 9780648030553

SKU: 9780648030553 Category:


Graphic artist and computer hacker, James Elkind, finds himself imprisoned in a windowless room with two women. Who are they and what is this facility they’re trapped in? As they search through the past to try to understand their surreal dilemma, seventeen year old James must confront the contradictions of his identity. Can he escape to find a future, or will this room prove to be his tomb?

About the author

Claire Belberg is a poet and writer living in the Adelaide Hills. She holds a BA in Psychology and an MA in Creative Writing. The Golden Hour is her first novel. You can visit Claire at


  1. Valerie Volk

    The Golden Hour by Claire Belberg – review by Valerie Volk

    “Here wasn’t here when I’d last looked.”

    What an opening sentence for a book!

    From the first moment of reading, we are plunged into a world of uncertainties. Where are we? And who are these three characters? It’s 183 pages later before we really work our way through the maze of doubt and confusion that The Golden Hour presents us with. But what a process of discovery it’s been!

    I read The Golden Hour with total absorption. This is a book you read at one sitting, because you really can’t bear to put it down. You’re hooked, from that intriguing opening sentence and on … The whole concept was striking in its originality, and masterly in the way that it unfolded.

    Three characters find themselves in a locked room, with no recollection of how they have come to be there, and their early discussions are all ones that we too can relate to.

    “There’s got to be a rational explanation for what’s happening,” Eliza insisted. “Maybe something will come to us if we look at all the logical possibilities. Who might want to do this to us?”
    “Could be anyone: Police. Psychiatric facility. Terrorists. Kidnappers.” Naomi jerked the words out as if she were reading a class roll, a class I’d have made a point of skipping.
    “Perhaps someone with a vendetta against one of us, or a case of mistaken identities.” (p. 7)

    But this is no ordinary locked room, and we have the sense that none of their logical suggestions are going to provide answers. For they’ve already found, with growing panic, that there are no windows, or outlets, and the door remains totally impervious to all their efforts to open or destroy it.

    They’re practical, but find this room is completely resistant – the carpet is fused to the walls and can’t be lifted; their three chairs, the only furniture, are made of materials that cannot be dismantled; the light fixture gives no chance of exit. They are trapped.

    It’s the same sort of private hell that Sartre wrote about in his famous play ‘Huis Clos’ (‘No Exit’) but in Claire Belberg’s book we have three characters who have never met, and where there are no connections except the ones they make in this locked room.

    There’s always something intrinsically compelling about locked room situations. Any circumstances where there’s a puzzle element tend to get us in. Added to that is the sense of fear that we identify with; we are at the mercy of someone – or something – that is more powerful than we are. Are we going to be able to escape? Can we deal with it? There’s the element of danger, and that’s something we all relate to.

    The three characters decide to yell for help, just in case someone might hear and free them. But this too is has its own risks, as the boy finds:

    It was a mistake. Shouting let out the panic which had been rising in me since I’d first been aware of the room. I’d been going along with things just fine, telling myself that everything would work out okay. Once I started yelling, I just couldn’t stop. I pounded the door, screaming words until they were indistinguishable. (p. 8)

    We experience what is happening through the eyes of James Elkind, a seventeen year schoolboy, a skilful computer hacker and a graphic artist, filled with all the self-doubts and miseries that only a seventeen year old can feel.

    But his two companions are equally troubled, and as the book proceeds we are allowed into their private worlds and nightmares. Eliza, elegant and beautiful, seductive and disturbed, and Naomi, sturdy middle-aged teacher, logical and determined, but with her own demons to face.

    This is what the book becomes, a sharing of demons, as gradually they realize there is no escape, no one is coming to rescue them, and the shifting relationships among them allows James, and the reader, to know more and more of their inner lives. The surreal quality of the book keeps us in a world of uncertainties, as James grapples to understand what is happening.

    It’s a rare achievement. A book that keeps almost to the classical unities: we have only one setting, that grey room, and a time span that is about the length of time it takes to read this skilful novel. But clever use of flashbacks, to James with his grandfather, to Eliza with the men who have made her what she is, broaden the canvas that the writer works with, and enrich our understanding.

    While none of the three has any memory of what has brought them to this room, as they talk we learn more about their earlier lives, and come to know James’ feelings about the father who seems to have no interest in him, and the tender relationship with his little sister, Angie. We gain a sense of the appeal Eliza has for him:

    I would have liked a pencil and paper to capture the lines of her high cheekbones and the strength of her jawline. Strength and sleekness combined in an almost heart-shaped face. She was exotic, and the wildness suppressed within her strained for release. Getting close to her would be like approaching a wild animal, and I wondered if I could do it. (p. 86)

    I am not going to spoil this book for you by telling you what is discovered by the end of The Golden Hour, nor what the outcome is. That is something you need to work your own way through together with the three characters, and the gradual revelations are worth waiting for. Belberg writes with skill and authority, and her handling of this intriguing plot is confident. It is, as I said at the start, hard to put down.

Add a review

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *