Cover Image: The Book of Hidden Wonders

The Book of Hidden Wonders

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Member Reviews

I wanted to love this book going into it, but as I delved deeper into the story I lost any sense of whimsical charm that the synopsis seemed to promise, and instead found myself in the world of a deeply sad and arguably abused child. 
I decided not to complete this book as I didn’t feel it was what I wanted to be reading at the time, but I do intend to come back to this story in the future when I’m in the right headspace to fully appreciate it.
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TW: Abuse (Animal & Child), Neglect, Abandonment, Mental Illness, Dementia, Caring for a Family Member, Bodily Harm (intended and unintended), Grief, Death of a Family Member

The Book of Hidden Wonders didn't turn out anything like I thought it would. I thought I was walking into a whimsical book that had a bit of a mystery to solve in it. What it actually turned out to be was an increasingly depressive book the further I got into it. It was very well written and Crosby shows great promise as a debut author.

This may be a book that would suit those who enjoy bleak novels that deal with a heady amount of trauma, however it wasn't for me.

*I was provided an eARC from NetGalley and the publisher in exchange for an honest review, however I ended up purchasing the published copy on release date and read purely from that one.
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The Book Of Hidden Wonders is the first novel by British author, Polly Crosby. At nearly nine, after some years of seemingly aimless roaming, Romilly Kemp has recently settled with her dad in a dilapidated old farmhouse, Braër, surrounded by a moat. Tobias Kemp is an artist, formerly teaching at the University, now trying to make a living by painting. Romilly’s mother, Meg has been absent since she was four. 

Romilly’s attic room is shared with her newly arrived Siamese kitten, Captain Montgomery of the Second Regiment, to be included in paintings Tobias will create of his daughter. Under the sloping roof, Dad tells wonderful bedtime stories; sometimes Romilly has fleeting memories of Meg, “a pair of smooth, delicate hands holding onto mine, sharp red nails gripping my skin painfully, a glittering diamond ring crackling with light.”

While Tobias is creatively engaged, Romilly amuses herself in the grounds, carefully avoiding the moat, and discovers a friend, a cheeky, daring boy/girl named Stacey. They get up to plenty of mischief, some of it quite dangerous, while Dad turns Romilly into the star of a series of books. Romilly quickly learns that fame has its drawbacks: treasure hunters armed with spades convinced that Tobias Kemp has filled the Romilly books with clues, making her virtually a prisoner inside Braër.

It is true: Tobias Kemp has filled the Romilly books with clues but, he tells her, they are for her alone, and not all treasure is gold or precious stones. The clues are cryptic, and Romilly doesn’t even know what she’s looking for when, eventually, she does start looking. 

Crosby saddles her protagonist with a loving, quirky but erratic father, a mercurial best friend, a damaged mother and a too-late-found grandmother. As the story develops, the reasons for this, and Romilly’s apparent immaturity, become clear, but the significance of some elements (eg the circus) do not.

While this ought to be a magical read, and Crosby does manage to tug at the heart-strings a few times, it somehow lacks the connection, repetition and resolution that would thoroughly enchant the reader. Some scenes and characters that seem like they should be relevant to the story turn out to be rather random, and could have been edited for a more pleasing read. A much darker read than the blurb depicts. 
This unbiased review is from an uncorrected proof copy provided by NetGalley and Harlequin Australia.
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This is an incredibly difficult book to read, it takes a while to get into and the subject matter is harrowing. Definitely not a happy read. However it is beautifully written, yet will leave you broken.
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It took me forever to read this book because I had trouble connecting with it. Every time I picked it up, I got dragged down and so I started putting off reading it at all. However, I always promise to read a book to the end that I have undertaken to review, so here goes.

I thought this book was going to be a whimsical tale about a girl running a bit wild with her eccentric father, a kind of British Pippi Longstocking (but with a parent living in the house, lol), and as I am a cat person, it sounded nice that she had a kitty.

However, and this is a BIG issue, this is a book which is mostly about child neglect, animal abuse, Alzheimers, abandonment by caregivers, mental health issues etc. Poor Romilly is let down by nearly everyone around her. Her father loves her, but he neglects her. There is more to bringing up a child than just making sure there is a roof over their heads and some kind of food in their bellies. 

The story meanders in all sorts of directions and I don't know if it is just because I am a pragmatic kind of person, but I was getting really annoyed with talk of panthers, ghosts and other things of that ilk which I clearly missed the point of. 

I have given this book 2 stars, which I hardly ever do, and that is only because the spelling and grammar were fine. I wish I hadn't read the book at all, I felt depressed every time I read it, and in the middle of a pandemic, is the last thing I needed.

Thank you to NetGalley and Harlequin Australia. All opinions expressed are entirely my own.
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This book is complicated. There are many layers, and things that don't make sense until the very end. But it is a magical read. One that keeps you hooked.

There are bits that are are a little bit slow, bits that could've been cut or shortened. It follows Romilly throughout her pre-teen and teen years, and it is a woven web of confusion where you can't really tell what's real and what isn't. 

The mystery is intriguing, though I did figure it out pretty early on. I still enjoyed the way it unfolded, though the ending did drag a little bit.

Overall, an interesting read. I recommend it to those who enjoy magical writing, lots of metaphors and similes. The mental health representation is really great, too.

Read my full review here:
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I absolutely adored this story. A bit magical and whimsical, I was lost in this world for a few days as I read
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If I can say anything about this novel its that it is going to use you, abuse you and leave you a sobbing mess on your floor.

In the beginning it seems a light hearted read with a core that hints at love and loss. By the time Romilly gets slightly older and her father has published the first of his best selling novels, the reader get a sense that there is some underlying issue which is simply getting ready to rear its ugly head. The ending left me broken and feeling so much that I didn't pick up another book for almost a week.

Having an artistic father and a temperament that easily lends itself to adventuring, Romilly is one of those characters that you kind of wish your kids would emulate, but also don't because noone wants a kid who always gets lost or breaks something while they are out. She is happy go lucky and inquisitive, always up for a great quest. Not long after she moves, she gains herself a rough and tough bestie who is determined to make their isolation fun. 

By about the 20% mark, I could tell that something was not quite right with Rom and her father (I picked two of the three 'twists' but I know a lot of people who were a little oblivious), and the entire tone started to become less carefree. The slow rise in tension left me feeling a little like there must have been some upcoming horror-esque event, the discomfort slowly increasing. By 20% from completion, I was so deep down the emotional rabbithole, I was hoping it would not end any time soon.

There are a few revelations throughout which, while I picked most of them, seemingly come from nowhere. On rereading, the audience can begin to see the bread crumbs left throughout in truly expert fashion. 

Honestly, all I can say is that this novel causes the reader to partake in an emotional rollercoaster, relishing the highs as well as the oh so tragic lows. Definitely worth a read for those who love a good narrative that will tear their heart out, roll it in the dirt then stomp on it for good measure
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If I had to describe this book in one word I would say it was complicated.

Told from the point of view of a child who grows to teenage during the course of the book, nothing related can be relied on as real. This made me second guess everything and everyone and it turned out I was absolutely right to do so.

It is a very unfortunate child who ends up with two parents who claim to love her but ultimately are too selfish to ever put her first. As a result the story deals with some very serious issues including child neglect, child abuse, mental breakdown, dementia and even some animal cruelty.

It really is a very complicated but interesting read, rather like a fairy story in that there is magic but with a dark side.
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by Polly Crosby
“𝑡ℎ𝑒 𝑏𝑒𝑔𝑖𝑛𝑛𝑖𝑛𝑔𝑠 𝑜𝑓 𝑎 𝑓𝑟𝑖𝑒𝑛𝑑𝑠ℎ𝑖𝑝 𝑎𝑟𝑒 𝑙𝑖𝑘𝑒 𝑡ℎ𝑒 𝑏𝑒𝑔𝑖𝑛𝑛𝑔𝑖𝑛𝑔𝑠 𝑜𝑓 𝑎 𝑏𝑜𝑜𝑘: 𝑦𝑜𝑢 𝑛𝑒𝑣𝑒𝑟 𝑘𝑛𝑜𝑤 ℎ𝑜𝑤 𝑡ℎ𝑒𝑦 𝑤𝑖𝑙𝑙 𝑡𝑢𝑟𝑛 𝑜𝑢𝑡 𝑢𝑛𝑡𝑖𝑙 𝑡ℎ𝑒 𝑣𝑒𝑟𝑦 𝑒𝑛𝑑.“
First of all - this cover 😍 I don’t think any picture I take will ever do it justice, it’s an absolutely beautiful book. Inside and out. See below for the synopsis 👇🏻
𝙍𝙤𝙢𝙞𝙡𝙡𝙮 𝙡𝙞𝙫𝙚𝙨 𝙞𝙣 𝙖 𝙧𝙖𝙢𝙨𝙝𝙖𝙘𝙠𝙡𝙚 𝙝𝙤𝙪𝙨𝙚 𝙬𝙞𝙩𝙝 𝙝𝙚𝙧 𝙚𝙘𝙘𝙚𝙣𝙩𝙧𝙞𝙘 𝙖𝙧𝙩𝙞𝙨𝙩 𝙛𝙖𝙩𝙝𝙚𝙧 𝙖𝙣𝙙 𝙝𝙚𝙧 𝙘𝙖𝙩, 𝙈𝙤𝙣𝙩𝙮. 𝙎𝙝𝙚 𝙠𝙣𝙤𝙬𝙨 𝙡𝙞𝙩𝙩𝙡𝙚 𝙖𝙗𝙤𝙪𝙩 𝙝𝙚𝙧 𝙥𝙖𝙨𝙩 - 𝙗𝙪𝙩 𝙨𝙝𝙚 𝙠𝙣𝙤𝙬𝙨 𝙩𝙝𝙖𝙩 𝙨𝙝𝙚 𝙞𝙨 𝙡𝙤𝙫𝙚𝙙.
𝙒𝙝𝙚𝙣 𝙝𝙚𝙧 𝙛𝙖𝙩𝙝𝙚𝙧 𝙛𝙞𝙣𝙙𝙨 𝙛𝙖𝙢𝙚 𝙬𝙞𝙩𝙝 𝙖 𝙨𝙚𝙧𝙞𝙚𝙨 𝙤𝙛 𝙘𝙝𝙞𝙡𝙙𝙧𝙚𝙣’𝙨 𝙗𝙤𝙤𝙠𝙨 𝙨𝙩𝙖𝙧𝙞𝙣𝙜 𝙝𝙚𝙧 𝙖𝙨 𝙩𝙝𝙚 𝙢𝙖𝙞𝙣 𝙘𝙝𝙖𝙧𝙖𝙘𝙩𝙚𝙧, 𝙚𝙫𝙚𝙧𝙮𝙩𝙝𝙞𝙣𝙜 𝙘𝙝𝙖𝙣𝙜𝙚𝙨: 𝙚𝙭𝙤𝙩𝙞𝙘 𝙛𝙤𝙤𝙙𝙨 𝙖𝙥𝙥𝙚𝙖𝙧 𝙤𝙣 𝙩𝙝𝙚 𝙩𝙖𝙗𝙡𝙚, 𝙝𝙚𝙧 𝙛𝙖𝙩𝙝𝙚𝙧 𝙖𝙥𝙥𝙚𝙖𝙧𝙨 𝙤𝙣 𝙏𝙑, 𝙖𝙣𝙙 𝙨𝙩𝙧𝙖𝙣𝙜𝙚𝙧𝙨 𝙖𝙥𝙥𝙚𝙖𝙧 𝙖𝙩 𝙩𝙝𝙚𝙞𝙧 𝙙𝙤𝙤𝙧, 𝙘𝙤𝙣𝙫𝙞𝙣𝙘𝙚𝙙 𝙩𝙝𝙚 𝙗𝙤𝙤𝙠𝙨 𝙘𝙤𝙣𝙩𝙖𝙞𝙣 𝙖 𝙩𝙧𝙚𝙖𝙨𝙪𝙧𝙚 𝙝𝙪𝙣𝙩 𝙡𝙚𝙖𝙙𝙞𝙣𝙜 𝙩𝙤 𝙖 𝙜𝙡𝙞𝙩𝙩𝙚𝙧𝙞𝙣𝙜 𝙥𝙧𝙞𝙯𝙚.
𝘽𝙪𝙩 𝙖𝙨 𝙩𝙞𝙢𝙚 𝙥𝙖𝙨𝙨𝙚𝙨, 𝙍𝙤𝙢𝙞𝙡𝙡𝙮’𝙨 𝙛𝙖𝙩𝙝𝙚𝙧 𝙗𝙚𝙘𝙤𝙢𝙚𝙨 𝙞𝙣𝙘𝙧𝙚𝙖𝙨𝙞𝙣𝙜𝙡𝙮 𝙨𝙪𝙨𝙥𝙞𝙘𝙞𝙤𝙪𝙨 𝙤𝙛 𝙚𝙫𝙚𝙧𝙮𝙩𝙝𝙞𝙣𝙜 𝙖𝙧𝙤𝙪𝙣𝙙 𝙝𝙞𝙢, 𝙪𝙣𝙩𝙞𝙡, 𝙗𝙚𝙛𝙤𝙧𝙚 𝙝𝙚𝙧 𝙚𝙮𝙚𝙨, 𝙝𝙚 𝙗𝙚𝙜𝙞𝙣𝙨 𝙩𝙤 𝙙𝙞𝙨𝙖𝙥𝙥𝙚𝙖𝙧 𝙖𝙡𝙩𝙤𝙜𝙚𝙩𝙝𝙚𝙧.
𝙄𝙣 𝙝𝙚𝙧 𝙞𝙣𝙘𝙧𝙚𝙖𝙨𝙞𝙣𝙜𝙡𝙮 𝙞𝙨𝙤𝙡𝙖𝙩𝙚𝙙 𝙬𝙤𝙧𝙡𝙙, 𝙍𝙤𝙢𝙞𝙡𝙡𝙮 𝙩𝙪𝙧𝙣𝙨 𝙩𝙤 𝙩𝙝𝙚 𝙨𝙚𝙘𝙧𝙚𝙩𝙨 𝙝𝙚𝙧 𝙛𝙖𝙩𝙝𝙚𝙧 𝙝𝙖𝙨 𝙝𝙞𝙙𝙙𝙚𝙣 𝙞𝙣 𝙝𝙞𝙨 𝙞𝙡𝙡𝙪𝙨𝙩𝙧𝙖𝙩𝙚𝙙 𝙗𝙤𝙤𝙠𝙨, 𝙧𝙚𝙖𝙡𝙞𝙨𝙞𝙣𝙜 𝙩𝙝𝙖𝙩 𝙩𝙝𝙚𝙧𝙚 𝙞𝙨 𝙨𝙤𝙢𝙚𝙩𝙝𝙞𝙣𝙜 𝙛𝙖𝙧 𝙙𝙖𝙧𝙠𝙚𝙧 𝙖𝙣𝙙 𝙢𝙤𝙧𝙚 𝙙𝙚𝙫𝙖𝙨𝙩𝙞𝙣𝙜 𝙡𝙤𝙘𝙠𝙚𝙙 𝙬𝙞𝙩𝙝𝙞𝙣 𝙩𝙝𝙚 𝙥𝙖𝙜𝙚𝙨....𝙩𝙝𝙚 𝙩𝙧𝙪𝙩𝙝.
𝗧𝗵𝗲 𝗕𝗼𝗼𝗸 𝗼𝗳 𝗛𝗶𝗱𝗱𝗲𝗻 𝗪𝗼𝗻𝗱𝗲𝗿𝘀 ✨ is the unforgettable, beguiling debut from Polly Crosby and I can straight up say that I LOVED IT.
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In The Book of Hidden Wonders we meet Romilly as an eight or nine year old. She lives with her artist father in a rundown house. Her mother is alive but not part of the household. Romilly's world centres around her father and her three-legged cat, Monty. When she is nine, her father publishes a children's book with her as the star and her life is forever changed. Her father goes on to publish further books and there's a massive public frenzy around a treasure hunt that has people showing up at their home and invading their privacy. As the years pass, her father changes a lot and she starts to involve herself in the treasure hunt in hopes of finding out his secrets. 

At first this book seemed like a magical book of wonder but it really didn't come out that way at all. There is a sort of magic at play but it's not exactly real magic. There's a lot of depth to the story and a great deal of detail is paid to the various events throughout Romilly's growing up years. At the end it's really difficult to distinguish the real from the unreal. I did like this story but i have mixed feelings about its length. Sometimes it feels like it is dragging along due to the immense detail. But then I also feel that's part of the story and the intent is to get a real feel for how her life goes during these years. There are secrets to be learned and "treasure" to be found for Romilly. 

Overall it's not a particularly happy book and seems to be more about the loneliness she experienced while growing up. I think the title might be a bit misleading but I liked this book enough to give it 3.5 stars. 

I would like to thank Harlequin Australia and Netgalley for sharing an advanced reader copy in exchange for a fair review.
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Nine-year-old Romilly Kemp and her father Tobias had moved to Braër House in the English countryside. Tobias painted and imagined, telling Romilly and her little cat Monty fanciful stories which half the time frightened Romilly. Her friend Stacey was a wild child from the village who only appeared when she wanted to, with it often being a long time between visits. And she didn’t like school one bit, wishing she could be home schooled like Stacey.

When Romilly discovered her father was going to write story books with Romilly and Monty featuring, she found her usual, lonely lifestyle changed somewhat. The books with their beautiful illustrations were successful, therefore they once more had money to buy food and live a little better. But Romilly continually wondered about her mother who had left them when she was four. Why did she only occasionally sent Romilly gifts but not visit? And what did the words mean that were hidden in the text and illustrations of the books that Romilly loved? As her father drifted from Romilly, her isolation and loneliness meant she struggled; would her father’s books help her find some answers?

The Book of Hidden Wonders (called The Illustrated Child in the UK) by Polly Crosby is a dark, infinitely sad telling of a young girl, her lost father and the secrets that bind them. The love Tobias has for Romilly stands out; she always feels loved. But she is also a lonely child. Beautifully written, I know I was expecting a lighter story (mainly from the title) but the complex subjects were handled well by the author. I very much enjoyed Romilly’s character as well. Recommended.

With thanks to NetGalley and the publisher for my digital ARC to read in exchange for an honest review.
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This book was written beautifully. The way with words that this author has is amazing!!!! But I found it went on a bit too long towards the end. It took me a while to get into it and figure out what was going on, but I really enjoyed the imagery that the writing gave me. The whole quarry part threw me a little and for ages after I was thinking “what was that all about???” I wouldn’t mind reading it again now that I understand it just to see if I’d think differently
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Thank you to Netgalley and Harlequin Australia for a kindle version of this book to review!

Romilly lives with her eccentric father in a ramshackle old house in the English countryside. To make ends meet, her father creates a series of illustrated books featuring Romilly and her pet cat Monty. The books are very successful and their property is subsequently frequented by tourists and other visitors, as rumours have it that the books are hidden with hints to an elaborate treasure hunt.

As Romilly gets older and her father gets more and more eccentric and removed from reality, in a lucid moment he tells Romilly that the treasure hunt is for her only and she must uncover the hints to discover what is hidden in the pages of the books.

I both loved and was niggled by this book. What starts out as appearing to be a whimsical and magical book is also quite dark and disturbing. Although Tobias (Romilly’s father) clearly loves his daughter, he is quite neglectful and she more or less raises herself. She goes to school briefly and then leaves to be home schooled.....which never actually happens. Her wild friend Stacey also doesn’t go to school.

I really enjoyed the parts of the book that involved the treasure hunt and looking through the books for clues. The author really writes beautifully and descriptively. Strangely I was niggled by the lack of practicalities, which I can’t ever remember being so with any other book....such as how Romilly didn’t go to school and how Romilly managed to eat during the last part of the book. Things were mentioned such as how skinny she had become, but weirdly these things just irked me. I can easily suspend reality if it’s presented to me in a way that is believable, but I found myself getting caught up in these things that on the whole, were not really important, but bothered me as I wasn’t convinced by the storytelling.

Overall, whilst it was not at all what I thought it would be by the synopsis, I still mostly enjoyed this book and although it sits more around a 3.5-3.75 rating for me, I’m rating it ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️/5 on Goodreads and Netgalley as they don’t allow half stars and this book definitely deserves more than 3 stars in my opinion.
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Thank you to NetGalley and the publisher for a copy of this eARC 
I have mixed thoughts about this book. I enjoyed reading about Romilly coming into herself but the pace of the book was rather slow and for most part there was nothing significant happening other than what Romilly did most days. The parenting style left a lot of raised eyebrows but there was love there. The ending is not one that you would expect particularly if a happy ending is what the reader wants. Although I enjoyed it overall it was a bit of a struggle to get through
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The Book of Hidden Wonders (published as The Illustrated Child in the UK), is a complex and multi layered tale. It starts when nine year old Romilly Kemp and her impoverished father Tobias move with into a large, decaying, ramshackle house in the country. At first it seems that she lives an idyllic childhood, rambling in the countryside, playing with her kitten and being home schooled while her father writes beautifully illustrated children's books featuring Romilly and her kitten. But then it turns into something darker and more disturbing as we find out about the reason for Romilly's mother's absence and as her father becomes more disengaged with Romilly and the world. Romilly's enchanted childhood grows ever more neglected and lonely, her only friend a wild girl from the village who comes and goes.

Tobias' series of books featuring Romilly become very popular with their charming stories and beautiful illustrations. With hidden objects and words in the pictures, it becomes rumoured that there are clues to a hidden treasure buried in the book and treasure hunters soon become the bane of Romilly's life. However, as Romilly grows, she realises the shadowy characters and hidden messages are in fact clues for her to a dark secret within her family and she sets out to find the hidden message.

The novel is more gothic in tone and ultimately sadder than you might expect from the title. It is beautifully written and deals sensitively with some difficult topics. Romilly is a wonderful character and it's difficult not to feel for all that she has lost during her childhood. A though provoking read, but not always an easy one.
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Romily and her father live in an old farmhouse. The old house is full of secrets and hiding places. Romily has a cat called Monty, her father is trying to earn a living as an artist and writing a story about Romily and a treasure hunt Over the years her father writes a number of books featuring Romily as a nine year old. People start visiting trying to take photographs of Romily and their house and trying to follow the clues in the book to find the treasure.
Romily is followed by photographer's and finds it difficult to go to school so she spends her days with her father and roaming the countryside with an elusive friend called Stacey. 
I loved the way Romily's father hid clues of family secrets in the illustrations of his books for Romily to discover as she gets older.
Set mostly in the 1990's this was about family secrets and dementia. Things are not as they seam and Romily hears whispers of people she can barely remember, when things get too difficult for her she turns to Stacey.

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With thanks to Harlequin Australia and NetGalley for giving me access to an ARC of this novel, due out August 2020. 

I wanted to love this book, and in some ways I do. I was attracted immediately to the cover and title. The blurb told me that young Romilly lives with her cat and her father, who (it is clear even from this short description) is developing dementia.  He writes and illustrates his daughter into some books, along with a treasure hunt, clues for her to discover the truth about something.  I didn’t expect a book with no sadness or darkness whatsoever, with it already clear Dad is dementing, and let’s face it, all families have at least one skeleton in the closet. However, the general feel I got from the cover, name and blurb was that this would wind up a feel-good novel. 

As I started reading the first chapter or so, I was entranced by Polly Crosby’s beautiful prose. I felt I was correct - this book was going to be amazing.  As I kept reading, and indeed kept enjoying the lovely writing, I quickly developed a sense of impending doom, and unfortunately this book, whilst well written, has not left me feeling good at all.  To be fair, not all books need to leave us feeling good. I am not unhappy that I read it, although I would have appreciated more warning about the darkness of some of the storyline.  Reading other reviews since finishing the book, I realise that it was initially intended to call this book “The Illustrated Child” and I’m disappointed that was changed, as I feel it would have been more representative. 

There are two major reveals in this plot, and I guessed at both of them well ahead of their exposition. This was not a bad thing, it prepared me better for what was coming.  I did feel that the resolution of plot complexities was too fast and too simple. 

Would I recommend this book? To the right person at the right time, yes. It’s not a light read for your beach-side holiday. 

PLEASE NOTE, the remainder of this review contains PLOT SPOILERS. Read on at your own peril. 

While it’s immediately obvious that this book will deal with dementia, there is no hint that it deals with child death (not a great subject matter when you’re reading whilst breastfeeding), child neglect, and significant mental health issues including self harm, a suicide attempt, dissociative identity/hallucination.  As noted above, I did realise ahead of the reveals that we were dealing with death of a child, and what was hallucinatory, which softened the impact of the subject matter somewhat. 

It does end, at least, on a hopeful note. Romilly has realised there has been love it her life, has realised she needs help and has reached out for it.
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