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A Sky Painted Gold | Laura Wood | Review

As Lou is swept into the Cardew siblings' dazzling world of moonlit parties, unrivalled glamour, and whispered secrets, can she stay true to her self... and her heart?

Lou has always been fascinated by the grand Cardew house, standing empty on the small island across the causeway from her tiny Cornish village. So fascinated, in fact, that she often walks, or swims at high tide, across to the island to pick apples from the orchard, or, more recently, to sneak in through a broken window and read Agatha Christie novels from the house's vast library, or to write her own detective stories in her notebook. With the Cardew family never visiting their Cornish home, Lou has found it the perfect place to get away from  her many siblings for a few hours, and enjoy the quiet of the big house. Until, of course, the Cardews return, and Lou is almost caught redhanded.

Luckily for Lou, the Cardew siblings, Robert and Caitlin, don't seem to mind that she has been breaking into their house, and she soon finds herself in their inner circle, invited to all of Caitlin's grand parties, and even with her own bedroom in the house. Caitlin and Lou fast become friends, but things are more difficult with Robert, the lord of the house, who Lou finds more than a little rude. Lou is charmed by the house and by the Cardews' life, and it isn't long before she finds herself spending more time on the island sunbathing with Caitlin and bickering with Robert, than she does back at home with her newly married sister, Alice. As the summer goes on, Lou has to face the fact that eventually Caitlin and Robert will return to London, and she'll need to decide what her life will look like when those grand parties end.

A Sky Painted Gold is a perfect summer read. Lou's story is filled with the kind of glamour you might expect from a novel that takes place in a grand house in the 1920s, but it also has the heart and depth to back up that shining facade. Lou sees her sister Alice, happily married to her childhood sweetheart and, worried that that is the path expected of her too, throws herself into the escapism of the Cardews' lives, but, of course, she eventually learns that throwing these lavish parties is a kind of escapism for Caitlin too. Lou is sympathetic and, at times, naive, but she cares so deeply for the people around her that this, in turn, makes it impossible for the reader not to care about her. Even as Lou begins to worry that she might be little more than a novelty among her new friends, she still only wants to help them, even as it starts to damage her relationship with her own sister.

There is romance of more than one kind in this story, and Wood addresses many of the issues that faced young people of Lou's time, and still do today, but ultimately this is a true coming-of-age story, and amongst the fun and the frivolity and possible falling in love, Lou must really decide what she wants her life to be. She cannot party with the Cardews forever but she does not necessarily want to follow Alice down the aisle right away, either, and if there is one thing she learns from the Cardews it is that she can only put off thinking about it for so long. It is a delight to read about Lou's summer with the Cardews, truly a summer of self-discovery, and it is certainly a story that I will read again and again.

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