Magical, heartbreaking, beautiful – Days of Wonder reminds us that stories have the power to 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.
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.
Days of Wonder is published by Little, Brown Book Group on the 7th June 2018. Thank you to the publisher for my copy of the book via NetGalley.
Keith Stuart’s debut, A Boy Made Of Blocks, was one of my favourite books of 2016 so I was very excited to receive an early copy of Days of Wonder. One of the things I loved most about A Boy Made Of Blocks was how beautifully and eloquently written novel it was that made the reader both laugh and cry – I’m please to say that the same can be said about Days of Wonder.
In his debut, Stuart tackles the subject of autism through the playing of Minecraft – in Days of Wonder he uses a similar format which works brilliantly. Whilst the approach is similar, the two books are very different and both fabulous in their own right. This time, the author is tackling the difficult subject of childhood heart disease – Tom has been estranged from his wife after she left him and their three-year-old daughter. Then, shortly before her fifth birthday, Hannah is diagnosed with heart disease. Tom is a theatre manager so it determined to bring and keep magic in Hannah’s life so she isn’t swallowed up by the shadow of her illness.
Days of Wonder focuses on the relationship between Tom and Hannah, Tom’s life is dedicated to Hannah and the theatre however Hannah thinks he needs to get out more and back into the dating scene….which brings on a number of amusing and cringe-worthy scenes! Hannah is an old head on young shoulders but is still a teenager terrified to look to the future as it’s always marred with the thought that it won’t happen – she has a dark sense of humour which is a breath of fresh air!
Whilst the focus of the book is mainly Tom and Hannah, what Stuart always draws out is the belonging of a group of people from all walks of life – which is what the theatre group gives them. Each of the characters bring something different to the story and pull out different sides to Tom and Hannah but my favourite character has got to be Margaret, an older lady who is a bit of a ‘luvvy’ with grand tales of her acting past and the famous people she has rubbed shoulders with. She is truly a great friend to Hannah despite their age difference and Hannah really looks up to her as well as enjoying her tales! Margaret is a wise lady, imparting her advice where needed and there is a point in the book where she says something so profound about the purpose of stories in everyone’s lives which will stay with me for a long time.
Days of Wonder is a beautiful read, once again Stuart has created a story which will have you laughing out loud one minute and on the verge of tears the next. I thoroughly enjoyed the use of plays, acting and comics throughout this book to support the narrative and it certainly gave it a magical feel.
I didn’t think that the author could do it again after the brilliant A Boy Made of Blocks but he has, Days of Wonder is another powerful, deep and funny read that really makes you think. A thoroughly enjoyable read – one of my top reads for 2018.
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 and lives with his family in Somerset.