Monday, December 3, 2012

Book Review: The Gilded Lily

Author: Deborah Swift
Publication Date: November 27, 2012
Publisher: St. Martin’s Griffin

A spellbinding historical novel of beauty and greed and surprising redemption.
England, 1660. Ella Appleby believes she is destined for better things than slaving as a housemaid and dodging the blows of her drunken father. When her employer dies suddenly, she seizes her chance--taking his valuables and fleeing the countryside with her sister for the golden prospects of London. But London may not be the promised land she expects. Work is hard to find, until Ella takes up with a dashing and dubious gentleman with ties to the London underworld. Meanwhile, her old employer's twin brother is in hot pursuit of the sisters.

Set in a London of atmospheric coffee houses, gilded mansions, and shady pawnshops hidden from rich men’s view, Deborah Swift's The Gilded Lily is a dazzling novel of historical adventure.

“Sadie’s chest constricted with tenderness, she thought she had never seen a more beautiful sight. Just the two of us, Ella had said, starting a new life together. She had the urge to hold on to the moment, to press it in a book the way ladies pressed wildflowers, to preserve their beauty before they faded.” – Finished Copy pg. 11
“And now here was Sadie asking for the truth. She dropped her skirt and rubbed at her eyes, took up the candle and shut the shutters against the dark with a slam. In church they talked of the forgiveness of sins. God help her, but she could not forgive.” – Finished Copy pg. 82
“He lowered his voice. ‘Not every lady will want her husband to know that she has been here, that her beauty is the result of artifice. Men want to think a woman’s charms are all natural. There are some that think these devices women use are evil, the work of Satan. So some ladies will require you to hold your tongue. But then, something tells me you are good at keeping secrets.’” – Finished Copy pg. 98

I read a lot of historical fiction, so I know that it can get pretty detailed and fairly deep within its context. This book contains so much information and is so powerful with its voice and words, that it definitely lives up to the many other highly influential historical novels that I have read. The thing that I appreciate most about historical fiction is the attention to detail and the author’s ability to take readers back to a certain time period. This takes extensive research and appreciation for a time, culture, and the events that were taking place within it. This truly is a beautiful piece of fiction!

The story surrounds two sisters, Ella and Sadie Appleby. They have not exactly had any type of life worth talking about and are used to being abused and mistreated. The sisters are escaping from their lives of servitude when we first meet them, and are running to London in hopes of a better life. Both of these girls are as different as night and day. Ella is described as being very beautiful, and Sadie is described as having a rather large birthmark on her face, which she feels slightly insecure about. Ella is definitely the ringleader and influences Sadie to do a lot of things that she probably wouldn’t have otherwise. I have to say that I really did not like Ella. She was harsh and even selfish at times. She used her beauty to her advantage and I often wondered if she even cared about her sister. The way she acts and speaks to Sadie at times made me think otherwise.

Ella and Sadie are running from something and I don’t want to lay it all out for you here because it could get a little lengthy. I will tell you that the peril and the danger that both of the sisters face is enough to keep you on the edge of your seat. They are constantly hiding and running, for fear of their lives. I loved reading these scenes because I felt like I was in the theater and seeing it all play out in front of me. I felt cozy while reading the scenes that took place in the ratty little place that the sisters rented on Blackraven Alley, with the fire crackling and the laughter they would sometimes share. Alas, good time cannot always take place, and the sisters face things far greater than you and I could ever imagine.

This is a long read and was rather slow in places, but exceedingly fast-paced in others. I enjoyed reading about the 1660’s and running a crazy race with Ella and Sadie. This book took me a little longer to read than most do, of course. I found myself really reading slower so as to not miss details of the time and the various places that Ella and Sadie told about! If you have a few days to dedicate to a lengthy, but wonderful, historical novel, then I would highly recommend this one!

***Thank you to the publishers at St. Martin’s Griffin for providing me with a copy of this book in exchange for my honest review***

1 comment:

  1. Couldn't help but notice you are one away from 1000, congrats!

    I haven't heard of this book but I will definitely add it to my to-read list, it sounds great! Nice review.

    Alise @ Readers In Wonderland