When her father finds fame with a series of children’s books starring her as the main character, everything changes: exotic foods appear on the table, her father appears on TV, and strangers appear at their door, convinced the books contain a treasure hunt leading to a glittering prize.
But as time passes, Romilly’s father becomes increasingly suspicious of everything around him, until, before her eyes, he begins to disappear altogether.
In her increasingly isolated world, Romilly turns to the secrets her father has hidden in his illustrated books, realising that there is something far darker and more devastating locked within the pages…
The Illustrated Child is the unforgettable, beguiling debut from Polly Crosby.
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Publication Date: October 29, 2020
Published By: HQ Fiction
Page Count: 400
Crosby’s debut novel is both haunting and innocent all at once.
The writing is done with the sort of care that deeply pulls you into the story and somehow keeps you on edge from the outsider’s perspective, you know that something is being hidden, and it is what ‘taints’ the innocence of Romilly.
This was also certainly a much darker read than it initially presents [to be fair it does warn in the blurb that it is a dark story].
Romilly’s father has whisked them away to a manor where though things are old and dingy, it is whimsical for a girl to grow up in such a setting. His love and care for her are obvious, a great father, and he soon decides to make a book featuring Romilly and the kitten he recently brought her.
The book prompts a crowd of loyal fans, their world changes, money not taking over completely but at least allowing for the buying of necessities and repairs they’d been lacking before. Romilly’s Father made a book that captured the imagination of both young and old and not only that but word is that he’s hidden a treasure hunt within the pages.
While Romilly’s father tries to tell people he did no such thing, he eventually becomes vague about the matter, people will believe what they want, but as the books continue to come out, Romilly grows and she begins to ask questions about the ‘treasure hunt.’
There is a hunt, but it’s not for gold or jewels, and he’s done it all for Romilly. Whatever the hunt will reveal, it’s for her to find out, not the readers.
It was breathtaking and sorrowful watching Romilly grow up and have things revealed, not just the scavenger hunt which happens later on, but revelations about her father, and her mother who reappears at one point.
The truth can be a very hard pill to swallow and the truths Romilly must deal with also make her grow up before her time. Though she has the help of her friend, something is still not right as things keep being revealed.
Some of the news shocked me, I felt myself wanting to cry for Romilly and to shield her from the world, but the world persists, and Romilly shows strength in her endurance.
Truly, heartbreaking and sad, this book was a very emotional read. Romilly is a perfect MC for a novel, and it is an impressive work for a debut book.
I give this 4/5 full cups of coffee and recommend this to any fans of contemporary lit or any looking for a dark coming of age tale with a hint of whimsy. Thank you to HQ for an eARC in exchange for my honest review as part of the blog tour.
About the Author
Polly Crosby grew up on the Suffolk coast, and now lives with her husband and son in the heart of Norfolk.
Her first novel, The Illustrated Child, is due out in hardback on 29th October with HQ and on 1st September in the US as The Book of Hidden Wonders with Park Row Books.
In 2018, Polly won Curtis Brown Creative’s Yesterday Scholarship, which enabled her to finish her novel. Later the same year, The Illustrated Child was awarded runner-up in the Bridport Prize’s Peggy Chapman Andrews Award for a First Novel.
Polly is currently working on her second novel.
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