With this book, the 86-year-old Peyton celebrates her 70th year as a published author.
For his 17th birthday, in 1921, white upper-class Eton student Antony Sylvester asks his father for an airplane. No one knows how his father makes his riches, but Antony and his deaf and blind sister, Helena, live in splendor on a palatial estate, Lockwood Hall, with an army of servants. Antony gets his plane, but only Lily, the 13-year-old daughter of the estate's head gardener, will dare go up in it with him. Antony then involves her in a complicated scheme to throw a house party in his father's absence, during which Helena drowns. Antony's father returns, murders a policeman, then forces Antony to fly him to France. Just when this melodrama is gathering steam, it falls apart entirely: Antony's father is never heard from again, the house is sold, Antony fumbles about trying to gain employment. Lily grows into an adult who never stops carrying a torch for wet, unambitious Antony. Peyton's writing is as smooth as ever; her evocation of English society and the early days of flight are all spot-on, but Antony's both unlikable and strangely powerless. Lily's more inspiring, but very little of the book is told from her perspective, and her continued adoration of Antony as she ages feels off.
Not up to the standards of Peyton's best. (Historical fiction. 12-16)