Review: The Emporium of Imagination by Tabitha Bird

Title: The Emporium of Imagination

Author: Tabitha Bird

Published: 30th March 2021, Viking

Status: Read March 2021 courtesy PenguinRandomHouse Australia


My Thoughts:

After being enchanted by Tabitha Bird’s debut, A Lifetime of Impossible Days, I was delighted by the gift of her second novel, The Emporium of Imagination. The book arrived in a charming package accompanied by a veritable cornucopia of thoughtfully hand selected vintage treasures from the author herself, items which tie in beautifully with novel.

The Emporium of Imagination is a heartfelt, poignant, and whimsical tale of love, grief and magic.

In the small Queensland town of Boonah, an extraordinary store suddenly appears on what the day before was a vacant block of land. It declares itself as The Emporium of Imagination and its customers will soon learn that the magic is not just in its living carpet of wildflowers or ladybugs that turn into lollipops, but in its ability to grant wishes and second chances, encourage wonder and joy, and offer the grieving the chance to reconnect with lost loved ones.

“The Emporium is filling with wonders, with things necessary to bring healing or help others fulfil lost dreams or mend broken hopes. The Emporium has arrived to help….”

Before the store can open for business though, the custodian of The Emporium of Imagination, Earlatidge Hubert Umbray, accompanied by an orange cat, must find a shopkeeper for its tenure in Boonah, and as his time is nearly up, he is also in search of a new steward. In the meantime, messages and trinkets are delivered to residents of the town in need of the magic the Emporium’ has to offer. Among them is Ann Harlow, who has returned to Boonah with her four year old son to be with her beloved, dying grandmother, and ten year old Enoch whose adored father has just passed away.

Crafted with sensitivity, compassion and Tabitha Bird’s particular brand of magic, The Emporium of Imagination explores grief, regret, love, forgiveness, and hope. Anyone, which face it is almost everyone, who has ever lost something – be it a dream, a relationship, a treasured item, or a person – will be deeply moved by this story, which reminds us, among other things, that redemption and salvation is always a possibility.

“Grief means we have loved. Would you really want to take away feelings of love?”

It’s a lesson Bird’s characters need to embrace. As Earlatidge’s time with the Emporium draws to a close, and parts of himself begin to disappear, he needs to confront the tragedy of his past. Ann needs to accept the inevitable and make peace with the decisions she has made, while Enoch has to find a way to forgive himself, and his father. I felt for all the characters in The Emporium of Imagination struggling with their various losses, and found myself alternatively sobbing and smiling as their stories were revealed.

“All you need is a little imagination. Broken things can still be made whole.”

Infused with creativity, wit and wisdom, The Emporium of Imagination Is a magical read. Let yourself believe.


Available from PenguinRandomHouse Australia

Or from your preferred retailer via Booko I Book Depository I Booktopia I Amazon

Six Degrees of Separation #6degrees

Hosted by Kate at Books Are My favourite and Best, the Six Degrees of Separation meme asks you to start at the same place as other readers, add six books, and see where you end up!

This month’s starting point is Maurice Sendak’s childhood classic Where The Wild Things Are. It’s possible that I first read this, or it was read to me, as a child but my first clear introduction to the book was while I was studying children’s literature as part of my education degree. I know I read it often while teaching, and to my children when they were little. It’s still on the bookshelf in the room my teenage boys share.


While an ocean appears in Max’s bedroom to take to where the wild things are, in the adult novel, A Lifetime of Impossible Days by Tabitha Bird, an ocean grows in Super Gumboots Willa’s backyard to help her to escape the ‘wild thing’ that is her father.

Super Gumboots Willa is her own superhero, so too is Elsa in My Grandmother Asked Me to Tell You She is Sorry by Fredrik Backman. This heartfelt story shares seven year old Elsa’s quest to deliver letters of apology on behalf of her late grandmother.

Atonement by Ian McEwan shares similar themes of regret, grief, and forgiveness after thirteen year old Briony mistakenly ruins a young man’s life. To be honest I found the book, which I read many years ago, tedious, but I did enjoy the movie (starring Keira Knightly).

There are several points of similarity between Briony and eleven year old Flavia de Luce, the main character in Alan Bradley’s series, which begins with The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie. Both, for example, are British, precocious, and lonely, however while Briony falsely accused someone of a crime, eleven year old Flavia de Luce, with a fascination for chemistry, sets out to solve a crime of which her father has been falsely accused.

Food links the title of The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie to The Particular Sadness of Lemon Cake by Aimee Bender. On her ninth birthday, Rose Edelstein discovers she has a magical gift that is also a curse, she can taste the emotions of those who have prepared the food she eats.

Like Rose, twelve year old prodigy Paloma, in the Elegance of the Hedgehog by Muriel Barbery feels it is prudent to hide her thoughts. Her intelligence is both a blessing and a curse, it alienates her from her family and schoolmates to such an extent that Paloma is planning to commit suicide on her thirteenth birthday, until she finds friendship with Mr. Kakuro and Renee.

So there you have it, some of you may also have noticed that the six books I have chosen are also linked, each features a child narrator


Join in anytime during the month – Click here for the rules!


Review: A Lifetime of Impossible Days by Tabitha Bird


Title: A Lifetime of Impossible Days

Author: Tabitha Bird

Published: June 4th 2019, Viking

Status: Read May 2019, courtesy Penguin AU


My Thoughts:

A Lifetime of Impossible Days is an impossibly enchanting debut from Tabitha Bird.

Silver Willa is 93 when she insists that her carer takes her into town on the first of June 2050 to post two Very Important Boxes.

Middle Willa is 33 years old when she receives a collection slip from the post office that she has every intention of ignoring.

Super Gumboots Willa is 8 years old when she finds a battered box, inside is a jar of water, accompanied by a note that says: ‘One ocean: plant in the backyard.’, which she does, while wishing for the impossible.

“Here’s what I know about impossible things. We can’t command them, but we can allow space for them in our minds.”

When the impossible happens, Super Gumboot Willa hopes it is an opportunity to save herself, and her younger sister, Lottie. Middle Willa refuses to acknowledge that the impossible offers any chance of change. Silver Willa remembers only that the impossible is her only hope.

This is a compassionate, emotional journey of tragedy, trauma, loss, love, forgiveness, and hope. I was moved to tears more than once by A Lifetime of Impossible Days. Though sensitively handled, the pain of Willa’s experiences are at times overwhelming as Bird explores the experience of family violence and abuse, and it’s lasting repercussions. Yet those tears also came when the Willa’s achieved the seemingly impossible, for their courage, and strength.

“Because I know one thing, Willa. We are all the ages we have ever been. We carry around our trauma. And if we have unfinished business at one of those ages we can’t move on to have a healthy adult life.”

Beautifully crafted, the past, present and future are deftly woven together, a strand at a time, ensuring the impossible makes sense. It requires an extraordinary imagination to write such a complex story, though thankfully only an ordinary one to appreciate it.

“We’re all stories, Willa. How else do you tell a story if you don’t make it all up? Sometimes, when everything seems lost, you just have to keep making stuff up”

A whimsical, heart-rending, and insightful novel, i was captivated by Willa’s journey.

Amaze-a-loo, Tabitha Bird.


Read an Excerpt


Available from Penguin Au

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