Days of Wonder by Keith Stuart
Publishing Date: 7th June 2018
Source: Received from the publisher in return for an honest review, thank you!
Number of pages: 480
Genre: General Fiction (Adult)
A story about family, love and finding magic in everyday life, Days of Wonder is the most moving novel you’ll read all year.
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 will end her life early. And now, with Hannah a funny, tough girl of fifteen, that time is coming.
Hannah’s heart is literally broken – and she can’t bear the idea of her dad’s breaking too. So she resolves to find a partner for Tom, someone else to love, to fill the space beside him.
While all the time Tom plans a final day of magic that might just save them both.
Days of Wonder is the stunning follow-up to Keith Stuart’s much-loved debut A Boy Made of Blocks – and a book to fall in love with.
Tom is a single father who’s a manager of a provincial theatre and looks after his teenage daughter Hannah, who has a life – limiting heart condition. Hannah’s mum has left – for a long time it’s not explained why, however I was starting to guess what could have happened. Tom is determined to make Hannah’s life as unforgettable and as special as possible, so with the help of his theatre’s friends he stages a once in a lifetime exceptional play for his daughter’s each and every birthday. Mostly they are based on fairytales, because Hannah loves them. Very soon the theatre and people working/helping to run it become a big part of the girl’s life. But Hannah is growing up – is theatre really all she wants? And Hannah’s dad – she’s as determined as he was, to make the time they have left together special, to make sure that when she’s gone he will be looked after, just as he looked after her.
I’ve read and absolutely loved Keith Stuart’s debut novel, “A Boy Made of Block”, so it is not a wonder that discovering a review copy of his second book on my doorstep made me very, very happy. Yes, I was a little afraid to read this book, of course, because I was asking myself after such mind – blowing debut would the author be able to make this dreaded second novel as wonderful as the first one? Oh my word, guys, Keith Stuart delivered, totally and with ease – “Days of Wonder” was perfect. Not too wishy – washy, not too sad, not too sugary, not too depressing, not too sentimental – just perfect. He took us on a wonderful and emotional rollercoaster – like journey that will make you smile and burst into tears in just one sentence and live the story through the characters. Keith Stuart can immediately enchant you with his writing style, he draws the reader immediately into the story, from the very first page you can feel as a part of the book’s world.
The story is told from Tom and Hannah’s points of view in alternative chapters. and boy, what distinctive, vivid voices they had! I immediately warmed to them and connected to them. The love between them was so real, raw and honest, so perfectly captured and put into words. I loved their banter, how they got each other, how they understood each other without words, how they challenged each other into getting dressed in second – hand especially chosen clothes and go to the restaurants. They laughed together and cried together and they respected each other. Their relationship was not a bed of roses, oh no, Hannah did also caused troubles but it only made them much more real and believable.
However, not only the main characters, but all of the background ones, are perfectly written and believable but I can’t not focus on Hannah and Tom. I absolutely adored them and their relationship, that was not too forced, seemed so natural and genuine and they all had everyday problems and issues to contend with. Hannah was brilliant, cool as a cucumber. She was edgy and sharp and incredibly clever but not too overdone for her age – probably because of her condition, of not seeing the future, she was bold and brave and took life by the horns. She also tried to couple her father up with a woman, just in case, so that he won’t be alone. She was this kind of character that you love so much that you hope till the end that somehow she’s going to survive, even if you know that it’s impossible.
I was very invested in the characters’ lives. They all had their own story to tell and I love the fact that the author has found a place for those stories in his book. There was this brilliantly, overwhelming community feel to it, they supported not only Hannah and Tom but also each other, even though all of them had their own problems and private turmoil. They all rose to the challenge, they showed what they can achieve as a group, when there is a problem to solve or when somebody needs help.
It was a beautiful, poignant and sharp story about not giving up, about never losing hope, about beautiful, unconditional love, about family. It is a real roller – coaster ride of feelings and emotions, and the author effortlessly transports you into the characters’ world, I really felt a part of it, and I experienced and lived through everything together with the characters. I wanted them to succeed, I applauded them and I cried with them. They all were a great bunch of characters and I am going to remember them for a long time yet.
“Days of Wonder” was first and foremost a story about love, but also about letting go, about spreading your wings, about trust. About friendship. Written in such light, chatty and accessible way, with a great feeling of authenticity, full of feelings and emotions. The author so very easily brought not only characters to life but also the setting and especially the Willow Tree Theatre. It was a truly magical place. And yes, the words on the cover stating that “Days of Wonder” is “The most magical and moving story of the year” are absolutely true – it was magical, and it was moving, and moreover, it was beautiful and enchanting. It touched upon some really heavy issues, like Hannah’s heart condition or Callum’s depression but it never feels too heavy or difficult to read. No. It was poignant, yes, but is also was very uplifting. There really isn’t anything that I didn’t like about this book. I savoured every single word and didn’t want to put it down. It was a real delight to read and I can’t recommend it highly enough!