The Secret Life of Daisy Fitzjohn by Tania Unsworth

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The Secret Life of Daisy Fitzjohn by Tania Unsworth

Category: Confident Readers
Rating: 4.5/5
Reviewer: Jill Murphy
Reviewed by Jill Murphy
Summary: Fabulously imaginative and fantastical story rooted in real life. Can Daisy save herself and find her missing mother? Loved this thoroughly original story.
Buy? Yes Borrow? Yes
Pages: 256 Date: March 2016
Publisher: Orion
External links: Author's website
ISBN: 1444010263

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Daisy Fitzjohn lives with her mother in the crumbling but grand Brightwood Hall. The house is full of antiques and treasures and hoardings - because Daisy's mother does like to hoard - and Daisy is rarely at a loss for something to look at or investigate. Which is just as well, because Daisy has never gone outside the house and its grounds. We understand why Daisy's mother keeps her secluded - she's terrified of loss because of a family tragedy in her own childhood. Despite this, Daisy has a loving relationship with her mum and makes up for the isolation by developing friendships: with her pet rat, with the peacocks and rabbits in the gardens, and also with paintings and topiary and other creatures of her imagination, all in the knowledge that she's being kept safe from The Crazy that once ran in her family.

Then, one day, Daisy's mother goes out for supplies and does not return. Instead, a strange man arrives and it doesn't take Daisy long to work out that he has malign intent. She must use all the imagination she can muster to defend her house from the stranger and find out what has happened to her mother...

Oh, I loved The Secret Life of Daisy Fitzjohn, I really did. It was a gorgeous read. But it's not perfect. The end was satisfying but, given the wonderful ratcheting up of tension, felt a tad rushed. And the concept of The Crazy was rather underdeveloped and left me feeling slightly uncomfortable. I think the general idea was that it wasn't Daisy's mother who had inherited The Crazy despite her isolation and hoarding; it was the nasty James, who was happy to use murderous means to achieve his ends. If you're going to use mental health motifs in your stories, I think you need to be very careful about it and I'm not sure Unsworth fully achieved that.

Quibbles aside, The Secret Life of Daisy Fitzjohn has a lot going for it. It's absorbing and compelling and very, very tense. Daisy is a fantastic central character and someone you can root for. She's independent of thought, courageous and resourceful. And she's kind. I loved Daisy. But the best thing about this story is imagination and the way in which Unsworth gives free rein to it. Daisy is imaginative and she incites imagination in the reader. This is a girl who holds conversations with animals and plants and paintings and Unsworth is a writer confident enough to leave her readers to decide how real those conversations are. Personally, I think they are as Real as the Velveteen Rabbit. So there!

My press sheet says, readers will be completely transported by the unique magic of Daisy's world and I think this about sums it up. They will.

Imagination also runs riot in a fabulous way in both The Silver Donkey by Sonya Hartnett and Confessions of an Imaginary Friend by Michelle Cuevas.

Buy The Secret Life of Daisy Fitzjohn by Tania Unsworth at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy The Secret Life of Daisy Fitzjohn by Tania Unsworth at Amazon.co.uk.


Buy The Secret Life of Daisy Fitzjohn by Tania Unsworth at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy The Secret Life of Daisy Fitzjohn by Tania Unsworth at Amazon.com.


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