Categories
Book review Book reviews

#Bookreview DAYS OF WONDER by Keith Stuart (@keefstuart) (@LittleBrownUK) #Daysofwonder A love-at-first-read book. A must read if you love theatre, stories, magic, and feel-good novels.

Hi all:

I read the first novel by this author some time ago and I was very pleased when I was invited to read the next one. I’m publishing the review on the day of its publication, so don’t delay and get it now!

Review of Days of Wonder by Keith Stuart
Days of Wonder by Keith Stuart

From the 200,000-copy bestselling author of A Boy Make Of Blocks

Days of Wonder by KEITH STUART

Published in hardback by Sphere on 7th June, £12.99

#DaysOfWonderBook

 A lead fiction title for Sphere (Little, Brown Book Group)

 Keith Stuart’s debut novel, A Boy Made of Blocks was a Richard and Judy Book Club pick, and a major bestseller. A reader favourite, it has over 1,000 5-star Amazon reviews.

 Magical, heartbreaking, beautiful – Days of Wonder is a tale about growing up, the beauty of a father and daughter bond, and finding magic in everyday life. Reminding us that stories have the power to save lives, Days of Wonder is the most moving novel of the year.

 Ruth Hogan and Joanna Cannon have provided beautiful endorsements for the book

In the beautiful, funny and moving second novel by the author of A Boy Made of Blocks, a father and his daughter discover that stories can save lives.

Tom, single father to Hannah, is the manager of a tiny local theatre. On the same day each year, he and its colourful cast of part-time actors have staged a fantastical production just for his little girl, a moment of magic to make her childhood unforgettable.

But there is another reason behind these annual shows: the very first production followed Hannah’s diagnosis with a heart condition that both of them know will end her life early. And now, with Hannah a funny, tough girl of fifteen on the brink of adulthood, that time is coming.

With the theatre under threat of closure, Hannah and Tom have more than one fight on their hands to stop the stories ending. But maybe, just maybe, one final day of magic might just save them both.

‘Utterly enchanting . . . a truly beautiful story’

Ruth Hogan, author of The Keeper of Lost Things

‘So powerful, yet incredibly gentle and poignant. Utterly and completely beautiful’

Joanna Cannon, author of The Trouble with Goats and Sheep

Keith Stuart is an author and journalist. His heartwarming debut novel, A Boy Made of Blocks, was a Richard and Judy Book Club pick and a major bestseller, and was inspired by Keith’s real-life relationship with his autistic son. Keith has written for publications including Empire and Edge, and is the former games editor of the Guardian. He lives with his wife and two sons in Frome, Somerset.

Keith Stuart on Days of Wonder

Days of Wonder is a story about love, life and magic, but I hope it deals with all three of these things in unusual ways. After finishing A Boy Made of Blocks, I knew I wanted to write another novel about families in crisis, but this time with a very different set of characters – and a very different crisis. As a Manchester City supporter, I was greatly affected by the death of midfield player Marc-Vivien Foé from a rare form of cardiomyopathy. He was 28. Later, I noticed other news reports about the same heart condition, which often struck young people seemingly out of nowhere. I wondered how you would live your life as a teenager with such a serious condition. What would it take to get you through?

The obvious answer is a lot of love and support and belief and passion. As an ex-drama student who loved my time directing and acting in plays, I thought that a small local theatre would be an interesting, supportive place for my protagonist Hannah to grow up in. I loaded her life with quirky, eccentric characters and I brought in fairy tales and comic books to accentuate the value of stories and myths in our lives. I just wanted to write this big, warm, funny book about something potentially tragic. I think in a lot of ways this comes from my own experience of grief. When my dad died of cancer in 2003, my mum, my sisters and me sat around and told each other stories about his life; we swapped memories and it was almost like we created a narrative of his life – that’s how we coped. Memories are the stories we tell about our lives, and I think we all – in a lot of ways – live through stories. It’s love, laughter and imagination that gets you through. This is what Days of Wonder is about.

Praise for A Boy Made of Blocks

‘The publishing sensation of the year: a compelling, uplifting and heart-rending debut novel’ Mail on Sunday

‘A great plot, [with] a rare sense of honesty and insight’ Guardian

‘Stuart writes from heartfelt personal experience – and you cannot fail to be won over by this unsentimental but, warm, humorous and touching story about fatherhood and family’ Sunday Mirror

‘A wonderful, warm, insightful novel about family, friendship and love that tugs at your heart’ Daily Mail

‘One of those wonderful books that make you laugh and cry at the same time’ Good Housekeeping

‘Even the hardest of hearts will be warmed by this poignant tale’ Event magazine

‘A wonderful, funny and touching story of a modern family’ Woman & Home

‘This is a heart-warming and wise story about love, parenting and the long-ranging effects of trauma. I shed a few tears but was left with a warm glow’ Cathy Rentzenbrink, author of The Last Act of Love

‘Searingly honest and poignant without being in any way cheesy, this gentle exploration into the tricky relationship between a father and son is tremendously moving’ ‘A truly beautiful story’ Heat magazine

‘Funny, expertly plotted and written with enormous heart. Readers who enjoyed The Rosie Project will love A Boy Made of BlocksGraeme Simsion, author of The Rosie Project

Days of Wonder: The most magical and moving book of the year by Keith Stuart If you believe in the power of stories and love magic, theatre, families, and heart-warming novels, you must read this feel-good book.

 

The incredible new novel from the author of 200,000-copy bestseller A Boy Made of Blocks, ‘the publishing sensation of the year’ (Mail on Sunday)

‘So powerful, yet incredibly gentle and poignant. Utterly and completely beautiful’
Joanna Cannon, author of The Trouble with Goats and Sheep and Three Things About Elsie

Magical, heartbreaking, beautiful – Days of Wonder reminds us that stories have the power to save lives.

 

A tale about growing up, the beauty of a special bond between father and daughter, and finding magic in everyday life, Days of Wonder is the most moving novel you’ll read all year.

Utterly enchanting . . . a truly beautiful story’
Ruth Hogan, author of The Keeper of Lost Things

‘A story of life, love and hope – the perfect antidote to today’s world. Phenomenal.’
Clare Mackintosh, author of I Let You Go and Let Me Lie

Links:

https://www.amazon.com/Days-Wonder-most-magical-moving-ebook/dp/B06VVH559Z/

https://www.amazon.co.uk/Days-Wonder-most-magical-moving-ebook/dp/B06VVH559Z/

Author Keith Stuart

About the author:

KEITH STUART is games editor at the Guardian. He started out as writer and features editor on the highly influential magazine Edge before going freelance in 2000 to cover games culture for publications such as The Official PlayStation Magazine, PC Gamer and T3, as well as investigating digital and interactive art for Frieze. He also writes about music, film and media for the Guardian and is a regular on the Tech Weekly podcast. He is married with two sons.

He lives in Somerset.

My review:

Thanks to NetGalley and to Little, Brown and Company UK (Clara Díaz in particular) for providing me an ARC copy of this book that I freely chose to review.

I read and reviewed Keith Stuart’s first novel A Boy Made of Blocks ( you can check my review here), a truly extraordinary book, a couple of years ago, and loved it. I could not resist when I was offered the opportunity to read the author’s second novel. And, again, it was love at first read.

Days of Wonder has some similarities to A Boy. It does center on the relationship between a father and his child (in this case, Hannah), and how their relationship is shaped by a specific condition affecting the child (Asperger’s in the first novel, a chronic cardiac illness that cannot be cured and will only get worse in this novel). All the characters are beautifully portrayed, not only the protagonists but, in this case, also an array of secondary characters that become an ersatz family unit.

Tom, the father, runs a small theatre and has close links to the amateur theatrical group. His wife, Elizabeth, left the family when their daughter was three and leads the life of a high-flier, with no real contact with her family. Hannah has grown-up in the theatre, surrounded by the players and by stories, both on stage and out.

The book, narrated in the first person by both Tom and Hanna (mostly in alternating chapters, although towards the end there are some that follow the same character’s point of view, due to the logic of the story). Hannah’s narration in the present is interspersed with what appear to be diary entries addressed to Willow, (the theatre is called The Willow Tree). She is a strong girl, who loves her father, the theatre and the players, her friends, and who has a can-do attitude, despite her serious illness, or perhaps because of it. She knows how valuable each moment is, and lives it to the fullest (within her limitations). She is worried about her father and how much he has focused his life on her and decides that he must find a woman and live a fuller life. She loves comics, fairy-tales, is funny (having a sense of humour does help in such a situation, without a doubt), witty, and wise beyond her years, whilst being a credible teenager who worries about boys and can sometimes have questionable judgement. I challenge anybody not to fall in love with Hannah, her enthusiasm, and her zest for life.

Tom is a father who tries his hardest in a very difficult situation, and who sometimes finds himself in above his head, unable to function or to decide, frozen by the enormity of the situation. He is one of the good guys, he’d do anything to help anybody, and some of his philosophical reflections are fairly accurate, although, like most of us, he’s better at reading others than at understanding himself. His date disasters provide some comic relief but he is somebody we’d all love to count as a friend. Or, indeed, a father.

One of my favourite characters is Margaret, an older woman who has become a substitute grandmother for Hannah, and who is absolutely fabulous, with her anecdotes, her straight speaking, her X-ray vision (she knows everything that goes on even before the people involved realise what is going on sometimes), and she is a bit like the fairy-godmother of the fairy tales Hannah loves so much. As for the rest, Callum, Hannah’s boyfriend, is a very touching character, with many problems (the depiction of his depression is accurate and another one of the strong points of a book full of them), and the rest of the theatre crew, although they appear to be recognisable types at first sight (the very busy mother who wants some space for herself, the very capable woman whose husband is abusive, a retired man whose relationship with his wife seems to be falling apart, a gay man who can’t confess his attraction for another member of the group…), later come across as genuine people, truly invested in the project, and happy to put everything on the line for the theatre.

The novel is set in the UK and it has many references that will delight the anglophiles and lovers of all-things-British, from language quirks to references to plays, movies, TV series and festivals. (Oh, and to local politics as well), but I’m sure that the lack of familiarity with them will not hinder the readers’ enjoyment. Although there are also quite a number of references to theatre plays and comics (and I don’t know much about comics, I confess), they never overwhelm the narration and are well integrated into the story, adding to its depth.

The book deals in serious subjects (family break-ups, abuse, chronic physical and mental illnesses [affecting young people, in particular], aging and death, growing-up, single-parent families) and whilst it makes important points about them, which many readers will relate to, they are seamlessly incorporated into the fabric of the novel, and it never feels preachy or as if it was beating you over the head with a particular opinion or take on the topic.

Reading the author’s comment above, I can vouch for his success. This is indeed a book about love, life, and magic. It is a declaration of love to the world of theatre and to the power of stories. The novel is beautifully written, flows well, and the readers end up becoming members of their troupe, living their adventures, laughing sometimes and crying (oh, yes, get the tissues ready) at other times. Overall, despite its sad moments, this is a hopeful feel-good book, heart-warming and one that will make readers feel at peace with themselves and the world. It has a great ending and although I wondered at first if the epilogue was necessary, on reflection, it is the cherry on top of the trifle. Perfect.

The book is endlessly quotable and I’ve highlighted a tonne of stuff, but I couldn’t leave you without sharing something.

Here is Hanna, talking about magic:

I don’t mean pulling rabbits out of hats or sawing people in half (and then putting them back together: otherwise it’s not magic, it’s technically murder). I just mean the idea that incredible things are possible, and that they can be conjured into existence through will, effort and love.

As I’m writing this review on Star Wars Day, I could not resist this quote, again from Hannah:

I feel as though it’s closing in around me, like the trash-compactor scene in Star Wars, except I have no robots to rescue me although I do have an annoying beeping box next to the bed doing a twenty-four-hours-a-day impression of R2-D2.

Oh, and another Star Wars reference:

It’s as though the spirit of Margaret is working through me, like a cross between Maggie Smith and Yoda.

And a particularly inspiring one:

Margaret told me that you must measure life in moments —because unlike hours or days or weeks or years, moments last forever. I want more of them. I am determined. I will steal as many as I can.

A beautiful book, a roller-coaster of emotions, and an ode to the power of stories, to their magic, and to family love, whichever way we choose to define family. I urge you to read it. You’ll feel better for it. And I look forward to reading more books by its author, who has become one of my favourites.

Thanks to NetGalley, the publishers, and the author, thanks to all of you for reading, and remember to like, share, comment, click, REVIEW and to keep smiling! 

[amazon_link asins=’0751563293′ template=’ProductCarousel’ store=’wwwauthortran-20′ marketplace=’US’ link_id=’6385fe99-6a25-11e8-b847-afb3072bb4c6′]

GET MY FREE BOOKS
%d bloggers like this:
x Logo: Shield Security
This Site Is Protected By
Shield Security