The Secret Life of Daisy Fitzjohn

For Daisy, the world is Brightwood Hall, a crumbling mansion past its glory days. She lives there with just her Mum and she has never left… ever. This isolation has left her with an unusual collection of friends from her pet rat Tar, to the haughty and sometimes scary inhabitants of the family portraits, to the wise topiary horse. As if this wasn’t unusual enough, as we learn more about Brightwood Hall, we realise that this once spacious and grand home is now crammed full of things from the mundane stockpiling of food items to the melancholy collection of day boxes that her mother prepares each night to capture the memories of that day before they disappear forever. Daisy has never had to make decisions for herself or to worry much about the outside world until the day her mother disappears and a sinister stranger arrives. She must defend her home and her world while uncovering the very truths that her mother has shielded her from.

This is a gripping adventure of discovery, drawing the reader into the well drawn out world of Brightwood. Yet this is also a story of loss and the impact of mental health issues. Daisy is absolutely naïve about the world and is forced into a slow realisation that her mother may be the one that needs help.

Unsworth skilfully and subtlety teases out this theme but there is one jarring note – ‘the crazy’ which Daisy refers to as something that gets passed down through the family. This unnecessary element threatens to completely undermine the mental health theme – a real shame this survived the edit.

A good adventure story for ages 9-12