The Gilded Lily by Deborah Swift
**** 4 stars
I loved the wealth of historical details about the Restoration period in this novel. Choosing to base the book on a time when London’s Thames froze over was an interesting one, and set the scene on the searingly cold, dank and dreary times in haphazardly built ramshackle buildings that were pre-‘Plague and Great Fire of London’.
Running off to London to escape the law was not an uncommon thing to do and the trials of the sisters mirror what probably happened many times to real people back then. Including little historical titbits within the well written novel was something I found very enjoyable.
The writing and editing of the novel was very good - though some middle parts were quite long and perhaps didn't lend very much to the movement of the plot. It took me some time to work out if there was more to the plot than fleeing to London to escape the law, being found and then finding freedom but found the writing mostly flowed well with a relaxed style.
Other aspects of the novel I didn’t enjoy so much. I found it a little difficult to reconcile the ending with regard to Ella’s selfish nature. She starts off being extremely nasty and unkind to her sister, Sadie, and this continues to almost the very end- the measures she goes to quite incredibly cruel. I could see Sadie accepting one day of being locked in but not so many in such freezing circumstances. I can see where Deborah Swift perhaps wanted to show that people can change and that by their actions can redeem themselves, but I don't feel that worked for me in the novel. Changes to Ella's development came too late and too abruptly and though there were times when I was empathising with her/ or the opposite they weren't consistent.
I appreciated how someone with a birthmark, regarded as the mark of the devil at that time in history, would want to hide away and would be a retiring character but felt Sadie needed to show a bit more backbone since she came across as being the more intelligent of the two sisters. Meek and biddable she continues to be even if It was good to read, though, that Sadie is genuinely a forgiving and genuinely nice character, but in those extremely harsh times I feel some better compromise would have been found to overcome their circumstances as in 'wanted by the law'. Sadie looks almost as though going from being reliant on Ella to being reliant on Dennis- who is the most likeable character, in my opinion.
I awarded it 4**** on Goodreads.
(I was given a copy of this by the author to read and reveiw)