The Book of Hidden Wonders by Polly Crosby has Romilly Kemp lives with her father, Tobias at Braer Farm. It is a rundown farmhouse with many places to explore and hidden treasures. Tobias sketches and paints Romilly with her kitten, Monty. To provide an income, he turns these paintings into a series of children’s books. Romilly becomes the Kemp Treasure Girl and their farm becomes overrun with fans seeking the treasure hinted at in the books. When Romilly is a teenager, she learns that her father has dementia. He quits painting and creating stories. Romilly goes on a quest to understand the clues her father has left her. The mysterious treasure is not what Romilly expected.
The Book of Hidden Wonders is Polly Crosby’s debut novel. It was not what I expected from the title and blurb. The story is told from Romilly’s point-of-view. It starts off with Romilly at nine years old. She has no structure and little supervision. Her father, Tobias is busy painting and sketching. Romilly does not remember her mother and her father is elusive as to the woman’s whereabouts. We later meet Romilly’s mother who has a sensitive disposition and seems to care more about herself than Romilly. There is a girl named Stacey who appears at random to spend time with Romilly and take her on dangerous (sometimes criminal) adventures. We see a girl who leads a lonely existence. To earn money, Tobias (Romilly’s father) takes his paintings of Romilly and her cat and turns them into illustrated children’s books. There are words hidden in the text and paintings that have treasure hunters out in full force. The Book of Hidden Wonders is a sad, dark tale. I was hoping for a light, whimsical story instead of a dark, depressing one. There are sensitive topics in The Books of Hidden Wonders. Animal cruelty, neglected child, and illness are just a couple of them. I was surprised at a rather graphic description of a canine’s genitalia. I found the writing choppy and the book was odd. I could not get into this unusual tale and I was not a fan of the characters. The author does provide vivid descriptions that allow readers to visualize the paintings, characters, and scenes. It is a story of contradictions, mystery, and child adventures. You wonder if what Romilly is describing is real, imagined, or a dream. The pacing was so slow. It describes Romilly’s days as she plays with her cat, explores the house, the treasure hunters, her father’s behavior, etc. The story needed action. As you can tell, I was not the right type of reader for this book. I suggest you obtain a sample to see if The Book of Hidden Wonders suits you. The Book of Hidden Wonders is a strange, dark story that I found unsettling and depressing.
The Book of Hidden Wonders if available from Amazon* along with other major retailers. This book is titled The Illustrated Child in the United Kingdom. Thank you for reading my review today. Next time I am sharing my thoughts on Jeb's Wife by Patrica Johns. I hope that you have a whimsical day. We all need a little fun and whimsy in our lives. Take care, be kind, and Happy Reading!
The Avid Reader
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