As a huge fan of Keith Stuart’s debut book ‘A Boy made of Blocks’ I was thrilled to be offered the opportunity by the publisher to read and review a pre-release copy of his latest novel. As always on such occasions when I eagerly look forward to a new publication, I hesitated for a fraction before plunging in to read … I just hoped the book would not disappoint. I need never have feared – it is truly a gem!
From the first couple of paragraphs into ‘Days of Wonder’ I knew I was in for a treat and settled back to enjoy, savouring the story, becoming engrossed with the characters and their lives. By the end my emotions had been on a rollercoaster ride, ending in tears, at times laughing out loud, all the time moved and touched to the core.
Keith Stuart’s first book was based on his own life experience as a father with an autistic son, ‘Days of Wonder’, his first fiction novel, also centers on the relationship between a father and his child; in this case a 15-year-old daughter, Hannah and her father Tom. Not only is Hannah seeking her natural independence, experiencing first-love, fretting about A-level options, she also has to contend with an uncertain future – and perhaps none at all. Since being diagnosed with a life-threatening heart-condition cardiomyopathy, her whole life has been under its shadow.
The disease has brought father and daughter wonderfully close together, their bond inseparable since her mother left whilst Hannah was still young. Tom has raised Hannah on his own, with the support of his eclectic theatre group which he manages. The members are close-knit and effectively a second, albeit quirky, surrogate family to Hannah, caring and understanding.
Since the initial diagnosis at the age of five, Tom has sought to bring magic into her life and a professionally produced birthday play at the theatre has been key to this … a tradition Tom is desperate to continue, one that Hannah feels less keen on in the cusp of adulthood… an adulthood that may never exist for her.
Starting the book my one fear was that the disease would dominate the book, that it could become mawkish and moribund. Not at all! The disease is a backdrop to so many stories within the book; the uncertain future of the theatre, how it has saved so many people. It’s about lives, relationships, friendships, love. Of living and dying. I became totally absorbed into not only Tom and Hannah’s lives but that of Ted, Angela, Margaret, Callum, Sally to name a few. Their fears, frustrations, courage and perseverance were uplifting and soulful.
Throughout feisty gutsy Hannah is insightful and wise beyond her years, whilst loving and worrying about her father as she desperately seeks to find him a date. Furthermore, she finds and becomes supportive of her first boyfriend; a young man equally crippled with a very different illness.
The book is effectively and skilfully told through the two-viewpoints of Tom and Hannah. With the latter, it is as if overhearing a private conversation, immediate, at times raw, at times swinging perfectly into modern jargon. As with Tom and the other characters, the sense of humour is impeccably narrated, the put-downs perfectly timed. Through Hannah’s words we learn about her best friends, including a very special 81-year-old lady, the dramas of school, relationships.
Tom’s narrative is personal, emotional, realistic … comically sardonic at times, other moments relating such humorous dating escapades I cried with laughter! As a reader, I couldn’t help but warm to him and feel for his predicament- caring and being over-protective and struggling to let go of his daughter. All the time, unaware his daughter is trying hard to protect her father from the future and for the future. His gentle, confessional tones mingled with the comic and drama persona whilst the ghost of his ex-wife lingered in the background, the possibility that they might yet be a family.
For both of them, there will never be a normal life … and as the novel develops they learn to embrace their predicament; their love and bond growing stronger as a result.
An interesting additional narrative format is the occasional letters in the book … deeply revealing about past events in Hannah’s life and written by her, it is only towards the end the reader becomes aware for whom they were written. This is yet one more poignant and emotional revelation in a novel which has heart-wrenching moments cascading throughout.
The descriptive detail by the author is superb, he is wonderfully visual in creating settings, presenting plays, and I became engrossed in them all and felt as if I’d been watching a film.
‘Days of Wonder’ is ultimately, and perhaps unexpectedly, a powerful, life-affirming and inspirational book. I was hooked from the very beginning and did not want to put it down for any breaks. It’s one of those books that I just had to read one more chapter until I sadly had to say goodbye to my new friends!
75 thoughts on “DAYS OF WONDER: A BOOK REVIEW”
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I love both of his books as well, Annika. A wonderful writer.
Yeah! 😀 Olga, lovely to meet another fan of Keith Stuart’s books – I hope he releases a new one soon!
Sounds interesting, I haven’t read “A Boy Made of Blocks” yet but it’s on my to-read list. Just out of curiosity, what illness does Hannah’s boyfriend have? 🙂
This is a superb book and I think the fact that it is fiction meant the author could approach it from a different angle compared to his first book. Both are terrific reads – hope you have an opportunity to read!
The review itself puts an urge in me to read the book!! Thanks
Enjoy when you have a chance to read the book! Many thanks for your comment. 😀
Awesome review!! This books sounds lovely! I can’t wait for it to come out so I can experience it too!
Many thanks, Neve! 😀 It is a wonderful book and just over a month until it is released! Enjoy!
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Wonderful review Annika and yet again you have persuaded me to put a book on my TBR list. Oh yes, and the Boy made of Blocks is also there too thanks to you.
Your reviews always seem to present just enough to stir the reading taste buds without giving anything way about the story itself.
Mike, thank you so much for your kind comment! I’m so happy you enjoyed the review and find that I give enough to ‘stir the reading taste buds’ without saying too much about the story.
Enjoy both this book and Keith’s first book – and do let me know what you think of them if you have a chance! 😀
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Many thanks for the nomination, Bethany!
A wonderful review, Annika! And yet another add to my TBR. Between you and Mae Clair and Diana P, I’m going to have sequels to my TBR list 😀 And anytime the characters become good friends is a treasure!
Julie, you’ll just have to have separate TBR lists! 😀 There seems to be a lot of great books out there at the moment – or perhaps we are just reading reviews a lot more? I’m sure you’d feel the same about the characters and hope you have a chance to read. PS. Maybe I shouldn’t mention I’m posting another review soon?! 😀 Hope you’re having a lovely weekend.
Annika – (first, so glad you’re back…I missed you!) Second, I had just promised myself that I have to read all the books on my TBR list before I add any other. But now, I’m placing Days of Wonder on the TOP of my TBR list. If the book is written half as well as your review is, I know I will be engrossed immediately. Thanks. Hope you had an absolutely fabulous holiday.
Ahh, thank you, Pam – that’s sweet! ❤️ It’s good to be back but taken a week for my spirit to catch up … at least I’m used to the delay now! The holiday was wonderful and I honestly didn’t feel ready to leave – non-stop sunshine during early days of snow and minus 15 degrees centigrade. Later plus fifteen and lunches outside by the coast. Heavenly.
Oh no, how dare I mess up your TBR list!! 😀 The saving grace is that it’s over a month until publication so you have a chance to read some others first. I’m sure you’ll be engrossed right from the start – and do let me know what your thoughts! Wishing you a blissful and relaxing weekend, my friend. hugs xxx🌻🌸🌼
The best kind of holiday is the kind you don’t want to leave and return home kind. Sooo good for your soul and spirt. Be kind to yourself – I think it takes weeks to get back into the ‘swing’ of routine again. ❤
Is it any wonder reviews sell books? I am now eagerly awaiting to get my copy! Right up my reading alley. 🙂 And how ironic the publication date is my birthday!! ❤
Debby, I think it’s lovely that the release is the same as your birthday – now you won’t forget about the book and can treat yourself to a copy (or give a handy hint! for a present!) 😀 I think you’ll need some tissues to hand for this one – enjoy and do let me know what you think! Have a wonderful weekend, my friend! ❤️
Thanks again Annika. I’m looking forward! And wishing you a happy weekend too! The sun is actually shining today – tender mercies. ❤
I’m happy the sun is out for you. Here it’s the second day of heat with 26 degrees centigrade!! Astonishing and a slight shock. I’m soon off for meeting about giving another talk about my book … to the other age spectrum! Take care and enjoy that sun! Xx
Oh wonderful! Enjoy your weekend! 🙂 xx
A lovely review of this book, Annika. It sounds very deep and emotional.
Thank you so much, Robbie! 😀❤️ An incredibly emotional book .. but on all levels!
this wonderful review really invites
one to step out of aversions
to reading about disabilities
and go for it, Annika!
sounds like he might need
a nudge to write a sequel 🙂
David, a joy to read your poetic comment! 😀 The courage of Hannah is heartwarming as is her desire to lead a ‘normal’ life and not be defined by her illness! Oh, I for one will eagerly be looking out for his next book!
I love a book where I push back into my overstuffed reading chair and decide to take the day . This sounds wonderful. It puts me back in that time when I found out my daughter had a life-threatening, life-altering disease. She ultimately became one of the 5% who escaped only slightly altered but as a parent, I would never be the same. I so enjoyed your review.
Jacqui, It was with shock I read about how ill your daughter had been and thank god she is one of the few who was not badly affected it. You must have been terrified, shaken to the core. The relationship between a child and parents are transformed going through such hardship and the bond closer and deeper! My love to you both.
As for the book, how true! One to relax with, absorb one’s full attention and just be in with story and characters. Precious memorable reading moments! Hugs xx
The books clearly made an impression on you, Annika. This was such a thoughtful review. The book sounds like it will impact a quite a number of readers. Thanks for sharing!
You’re right, Mae! 😀 This made a huge impression on me and is a very memorable book. I’m sure it will be a big success and touch many readers. I felt lucky to have a chance to read this early and a joy to share on my blog. Many thanks for reading and your lovely comment. Xx
What a wonderful review, and makes me just want to go out and buy it to take with me on my holidays..
Thank you Annika, you have a wonderful way with your descriptive words my friend.. Sending Lots of Love and Hugs your way..
And a big thank you for sticking with me while I have been absent from visiting while I nurtured myself.. ❤ Love and Hugs xx
Sue, Thank you so much for your wonderful comment! 😀 As this is not out for a while, I hope it will make a perfect summer holiday read for you.
As for sticking with you.., haha … you’re note getting rid of me that easily! 😀 I totally understand and I look forward to your posts and comments when you’re up to it … the most important is to look after yourself. A lot of family commitments has meant I’m slowing down a bit with blogging myself, and the urge to write fiction just grows stronger! Love & hugs ❤️ Ps. Enjoy this amazing day – promising to be the hottest this year! Yeah!! Xx
Keep following those ‘Urges’ Annika.. 🙂 our instincts are what we need to follow xx
Thank you Annika, you have done it again. I am totally captivated by your strong review of
” Day’s of wonder ” and would have bought it straight away; alas, it is not yet out for us ordinary folks. 🙂 so I have put it on my wish list and it will be a wonderful summer read.
You engage me totally both intellectually and emotionally. So many aspects to this story with Tom and his daughter Hannah in the centre. The hint of a letter Hannah has written and left in a book……to whom? Keith Stuart seems to have covered most angles of human emotions and I reiterate. Can’t wait to read.
Haha! I’m smiling at your ‘ordinary folk’ comment! Nothing ordinary about anyone but it feels a privilege to read pre-release copies books to review!
I’m so happy you found the review captivating on all angles and I know this is one you will treasure, want to read slowly, savouring the story. I’m sorry you have to wait a little bit!! Oh, as for the letters you’ll just have to wait and see. I’d love to hear your opinion of the book when you’ve read it! Happy Reading! xx📖
It sounds a terrific read, Annika. I shall watch out for it. The wife of a friend from long ago died recently. Their first child had Downs Syndrome. What a shock it was, back then. He was at her funeral recently and what a credit he is to them both. I have a lump in my throat typing this. 🙂 🙂
Dear Jo, I feel deeply touched reading about your friend’s child at the funeral – we never know the strength within each of us and the power of love and care. It can’t have been easy to write about them – thank you for sharing. I do highly recommend the book and hope you have a chance to read it! hugs xxx
A beautifully written and utterly magnetic review, Annika. Another book to add to my TBR ❤
Tina, thank you so much … this one almost wrote itself and it was more a matter of trying to reign it in! It really is a wonderful and uplifting read and hope you have a chance one day. Hugs xxx ❤️
Thanks for sharing your review, Annika! Sounds like a fantastic read and I’ve just added Days of Wonder to my TBR. 🙂 xo
Bette, it was a wonderfully touching book and I hope you have a chance to read it! ❤️
It’s always fun to find a new book that is such a great read – I’ll be looking for this one!
How true, Barbara… it’s as good as finding treasure to come across a book that touches one’s core on all levels! 😀 I’m sure this is one you’ll love and I would like to hear your thoughts!
I’m going to have to disappear for a month and read all these books!
As much as you looked forward to read Days of Wonder I always look forward to reading your book reviews. And as the book, you did not disappoint. Your talent is obvious, Annika. 🙂
Wow! 😀😀 Carol, thank you so much for your kind words! ❤️ Your comment has me beaming away … this was an easy book to review as it touched me deeply, held me fast, so full of love!
Quite the review, Annika. You have real talent as a reviewer. No wonder the publisher invited you to participate. –Curt
Bless you, Curt! 😀 Thank you so much! It’s was a gem of a book to review and so much I wanted to say about it!
I am amazed at your skill of converting a review into a heart-rending story…it seems you were one of the characters in the book Annika. Thanks for sharing a terrific review that inspires the reader to pick up the book immediately. Keep inspiring dear friend. Love and hugs.
Balroop, I honestly felt like I was one of the characters … the writing had an intimate feel to it. Thank you so much for you lovely comment … as always I write from the heart and I’m over the moon if it is inspiring! I’d told so many family and friends about the novel so in the end it was a matter of writing my thoughts up! Hugs xx
This sounds like an amazing story, Annika. And, I don’t think I’ve ever read such a thorough review. Great post!
Wow! 😃 Thank you so much, Jan! That means a lot to me … I did have a few pages of notes which I had to condense to this post. There were so many terrific quotes I’d noted down but just didn’t have room for in the end!
Your reviews always are so compelling, Annika. This one sounds wonderful, but also like a real tear-jerker! The choice of setting (a theater company) couldn’t be better – lots of opportunity for fun characters, antics, and imagination. Adding this to my list! Thanks!
Diana, at the start I was rather sceptical about the theatre setting, but you’re spot-on, it was inspired on part of the writer! A perfect reason for the myriad of quirky characters to be together, the magic of the theatre, interwoven with the harsh reality of life. And yes, for this one I had a box of tissue to hand – needed on more than one occasion and once for the tears of laughter – just thinking about that scene has me smiling and I have to tell myself, that no, I haven’t seen a film, rather read the book! A terrific book and hope you enjoy it just as much if you have a chance to read it.
It sounds awesome and your reviews haven’t let me astray yet. 🙂
A wonderful review!
Thank you so much, Lynn! 😀
What a thoughtful review. It’s clear how much the book moved you, and that’s a better recommendation than a bunch of short five-star reviews. Thanks for sharing your feelings about it.
Staci, thank you so much! 😀 I was worried that the review became overlong but had no heart to cut it – everything was relevant! You’re right, the book touched me deeply and I ended up telling my family and friends all about it … hopefully they will do a Swedish translation as I had many potential buyers there!
I don’t mind long reviews. Much rather learn too much about something than too little, which is never helpful. Those “I liked it” or “I hated it” reviews are useless. Yours was wonderful.
Bless you, Staci – I can’t stop smiling now! xx
Glad to have been an uplifting force in your day. 🙂
I’ve been on the lookout for a good new book to read and this sounds wonderful. Thanks for a lovely review Annika.
Miriam, thank you so much! 😀 I feel lost if I’m without a book and as you can tell I highly recommend this one. Alas, it’s not out until June … I stocked up on Kindle books for the break and read a mixture of fantasy, comedy, epic historical and thriller novels! An eclectic and satisfying reading splurge!
Wonderful review, Annika. Hopefully, I’ll get a chance to read DAYS OF WONDER! Thanks for sharing. ♥
Thank you so much, Billy! 😀 It was a pleasure to read and review; hopefully you will have a chance to read it soon!
Lovely review. The book sounds wonderful.
Carrie, it really is so wonderful, moving, funny, poignant … the adjectives are endless! 😀
T here’s always that moment when opening a ‘latest’ by an admired author, isn’t there? Your enthusiasm for the book has intrigued me, now, I’ll be adding it to my list.
Cath, I’m glad my review has intrigued you -it’s always a fine line between revealing too much about the book or not enough … intriguing is good! 😀 A few times I’ve picked up a book by a writer whose work I’ve enjoyed only for it to fall flat, or in one case to be so shockingly bad I had to stop reading! If you have a chance to read this I would be interested in your opinion.
“It’s one of those books that I just had to read one more chapter until I sadly had to say goodbye to my new friends!” This is certainly a sign of a great read. Thanks for the terrific review, Annika. I’ll be adding this to my TBR list.
Jill, that sentence is so true! 😀I really felt part of their lives, they became so real to me – which shows the skill of the author. I hope you have a chance to read it as I’m sure you will enjoy it.