Sometimes you read a writer’s debut novel and you just know that you’ll want to read anything else published under their name. That was the case for me last year with Keith Stuart and A Boy Made of Blocks. Fortunately I was offered an ARC of his second novel, Days of Wonder*, which is released today.
Of course, there is always that nagging doubt: can future releases really live up to expectations? A Boy Made of Blocks has sold 200,000 copies, was selected for the Richard and Judy Book Club and has over 1,000 5-star reviews on Amazon. And it made me cry. Would Days of Wonder be more of the same?
Again, Stuart focuses on a family in crisis, centred on a father’s relationship with his child. This time it’s single father Tom and his 15 year old daughter Hannah. He’s the manager of a small local theatre and she is living with a heart condition destined to drastically shorten her life. Hannah is a life-long fan of fairy tales and comic books, losing herself in the wonder of stories. Every year, on her birthday, Tom and his theatre group put on a fantastical production to distract her from her illness. But as her sixteenth birthday looms and the future of the theatre hangs in the balance, these stories become more important than ever.
Keith Stuart has a rare gift. He has the ability to tackle not particularly cheerful subject matter (autism, breakdown of the family home, life-shortening heart conditions) in a way that is still uplifting. It’s also moving without being a trashy tear-jerker. Some writers like to make you cry just because they can (*cough* Nicholas Sparks *cough*) but Stuart doesn’t exploit his readers’ emotions. Days of Wonder is genuinely magical and quite possibly my favourite novel of the year so far.
Warning: this one is probably best not read on public transport. I had some serious lip biting and hard blinking going on!
*I was sent a copy of this book for review purposes
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