First Lines of Prologue: "It all started with an apple. Trouble often does, I suppose, and this particular apple was a real troublemaker - a Pendragon, red-fleshed and sweet, that I stole from someone else's orchard."
Summary: Louise Trevelyan is the second daughter in a large, close-knit family. Her older sister, Alice, is getting married and Louise is feeling lost. She has taken to making her way to a large, abandoned house, the Cardew House, on an island near her home. She visits the orchard and has discovered an unlocked window that lets her into the home. There is an extensive library inside and Louise loses herself in detective novels.
One evening she notices activity at the house. She climbs a tree to better view what is going on. Before long a man makes his way to the tree and lights a cigarette. Soon, he begins talking to her. She can't believe he spotted her. Eventually, he convinces her to come down and invites her inside. She refuses. He insists that his sister would love to meet her. Before long she receives an invitation from Caitlin herself. Louise is soon swept into a world completely different from her own and struggles to find her place in either one.
My thoughts: I have not read many books in the Young Adult genre and wasn't sure what to expect. I was captivated by this story. The story takes place in 1929 on the Cornish coast. Louise is the second oldest of eight children. Her father is a farmer and they live in a ramshackle farmhouse. Alice, the oldest child, is getting married when the story opens. She and her fiancee have been in love for as long as Louise can remember. She sees it in the way the look at one another. Alice is only two years older than Louise, but Louise can't imagine feeling that way about a man.
After Louise is discovered in the apple tree, by none other than Robert Cardew himself, her life changes. She begins spending days at the Cardew House with Robert, Caitlin and their friends. Their parents are both dead, but the house is staffed with servants. They have parties with Jazz music that Louise has only dreamed about. Robert finds them boring, which is why he has escaped to the orchard. Robert finds Louise's matter-of-fact way of viewing the world refreshing. Caitlin and her friends also find her to be something of a novelty and enjoy having her around. Louise does worry that they will become bored with her eventually.
The descriptions of the countryside and the parties are mesmerizing. It was easy to get lost in the world the author created. There was a nice mix of the hedonistic, party life and the sweet home life of Louise's family. The author does a nice job of giving the reader a taste of the party atmosphere without delving too deeply into it. There is a definite Great Gatsby feel to the story.
"The night is clear and calm. When I reach the beach, the sea is quite still, its gentle rippling waves filling the air with a muted rushing sound. The Cardew House is lit up like a birthday cake, and if I strain my ears I can just about hear the echo of music and laughter being carried across to the shore."
Throughout the story Louise realizes that this dream life will end with the coming of autumn. The Cardews will return to London and she will have to figure out what she is going to do with her life. She has also discovered that the Cardew family has secrets. Caitlin seems to be wasting away, "burning up", as one character describes her. Louise longs to be taken into her confidence, but Caitlin insists she is fine.
This is a complex story. It is a coming-of-age story, but it is also so much more. It is a story of two families and explores things like race, class, the place of women in society, marriage and friendship.
This is one of my favorite reads of the year. When I was finished, I wanted to start again. A Sky Painted Gold was Laura Wood's debut novel. She has written two more and I look forward to reading them.
"A nearby crunching on the gravel drive jolts me and sends me hurtling - not too daintily - into some shrubbery. A couple in the most gorgeous evening wear sway into view, clearly under the influence of something even stronger than Aunt Cath's ginger wine. I hold my breath. This is what it must be like seeing a lion in the wild."
"She looks like a fairy princess, floating in a cloud of white silk and chiffon. White feathers crown her shingled head, although her pale hair looks almost silver in this light. Several strings of pearls are wrapped around her slender neck, and on her feet are the most gorgeous white silk slippers, a bit like you'd expect a prima ballerina to wear. "
"I may not want exactly what my sister has, but I know her love for Jack is real. It's honest and precious, and she values it above anything. And that's what I want. Not this game, not this refusal to care properly about anything. It's heartless. It makes people disposable. People like me."