THE BOOK OF HIDDEN WONDERS (Park Row Books; September 1, 2020; $27.99 USD), a beautifully imaginative story of a father and daughter growing older together, their magical world of stories, and a fantastical treasure hunt that leads to a priceless and shocking family secret.
Romilly Kemp grows up with her eccentric father and her adorable cat Monty within the walls of a dilapidated mansion in the scenic English countryside. As Romilly has trouble fitting in with her classmates, she turns to her reliable furry friend, and as her father struggles to make ends meet, he turns to his art and writes children’s books based on Romilly and Monty. Soon, the tiny Kemp family’s world changes with the unexpected success of The Kemp Treasure Girl books and Romilly is thrust into the spotlight as their home is overrun by tourists looking for a treasure whose clues lie within the illustrations of her father’s stories.
As they both grow older, Romilly and her father begin to grow apart, and Romilly turns to his books to find the connection they have lost. And much to her surprise, the rumors were true – between the pages of The Kemp Treasure Girl stories are the clues that start Romilly on an unforgettable journey that leads her to the heart of a mysterious family secret worth far more than the gold and jewels the tourists on her estate have been searching for.
I was not expecting this book to be as sad or handle as many different dark/difficult topics as it did. That being said it didn’t mean I didn’t enjoy the book, but it did surprise me. We follow Romilly when she’s nine and as she grows, living with her father in a large but rundown house. I did think that the harder subjects were handled really well by the author and enjoyed the characters that were crafted. While it is a story on the sadder side, it was still an impactful tale about family, growing up and many difficulties that come with life itself.
I’m always a fan of stories about fathers and daughters, but this one at times was hard to read because of the strain between Romilly and her father, as well as her father’s deteriorating health. I would definitely say if this kinds of things are a trigger for you, be aware going in. There are also some instances of animal abuse to be mindful of.
POLLY CROSBY grew up on the Suffolk coast and now lives deep in the Norfolk countryside. Last year, THE BOOK OF HIDDEN WONDERS was awarded runner up in the Bridport Prize’s Peggy Chapman Andrews Award for a First Novel, and Polly also won Curtis Brown Creative’s Yesterday Scholarship, which enabled her to finish the novel. She currently holds the Annabel Abbs Scholarship at the University of East Anglia, where she is studying part time for an MA in Creative Writing whilst working on her second novel.