Romilly lives in a ramshackle house with her eccentric artist father and her cat, Monty. She knows little about her past – but she knows that she is loved.
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 clues leading to a precious prize.
But as time passes, Romilly’s father becomes increasingly suspicious of the outside world until, before her eyes, he begins to disappear altogether. With no-one else to help, Romilly turns to the secrets her father has hidden in his illustrated books – realising that his treasure hunt doesn’t lead to gold, but to something far more precious…the truth.
This book is so beautiful and sad, words cannot give it justice. Yes it’s slow at times – especially in the middle – and I guessed at some of the tragedies that do not come to light until the end, but don’t let that put you off. It’s not yet another book full of twists and turns and a shocking reveal. This is a gentle read about Romilly’s coming of age and one that will have you in tears at the end. All the characters are beautifully drawn – her dad Tobias whose life is changing in ways that she is too young to understand, her mum who cannot cope with reality – we don’t find out why until later on (I can identify with this), her elderly grandmother Beatrice who she has only just met, her mysterious friend Stacey and Monty the cat. Then there is Lidiya in the Circus who plays a part in her childhood.
I loved this book. It’s so real and heartfelt, it will stay with me (and hopefully you) for many years to come. For lovers of When God Was a Rabbit and The Trouble with Goats and Sheep.
Many thanks to NetGalley for my ARC in exchange for an honest review.
I must also give a mention to Kit Williams, whose book Masquerade, written and illustrated in 1979 inspired a worldwide treasure hunt by concealing clues to the location of a jewelled golden hare. I know it also inspired The Illustrated Child. William’s amazing wishing fish clock built in 1985 by renowned clock maker Michael Harding still plays music and blows bubbles every 15 minutes in the Regent Arcade in my home town of Cheltenham.