Title: The Emporium of Imagination
Author: Tabitha Bird
Published: March 30th 2021
Publisher: Penguin Books Australia
Genres: Fiction, Crime, Mystery, Suspense, Thriller
Rating: 4 stars
A captivating novel of magical realism about a fantastical shop that brings comfort, peace and hope to those in need. You won’t want to miss the opening of this shop!
From the author of A Lifetime of Impossible Days (winner of the Courier-Mail People’s Choice QLD Book of the Year Award) comes this beautiful and uplifting story, that will make you laugh and make you cry.
Welcome to The Emporium of Imagination, a most unusual shop that travels the world offering vintage gifts to repair broken dreams and extraordinary phones to contact lost loved ones.
But, on arrival in the tiny township of Boonah, the store’s long-time custodian, Earlatidge Hubert Umbray, makes a shocking realisation. He is dying . . .
The clock is now ticking to find his replacement, because the people of Boonah are clearly in need of some restorative magic.
Like Enoch Rayne – a heartbroken ten-year-old boy mourning the loss of his father, while nurturing a guilty secret.
Like Ann Harlow, who has come to the town to be close to her dying grandmother. Though it’s Enoch’s father who dominates her thoughts – and regrets . . .
Even Earlatidge in his final days will experience the store as never before – and have the chance to face up to his own tragedy . . .
‘A little bit of magic is about to appear.’
I am incredibly grateful to author Tabitha Bird. In the lead up to the release of her highly anticipated second novel, Tabitha Bird personally picked and packaged a very thoughtful box of trinkets to me that directly linked to her new novel, The Emporium of Imagination. This special delivery was just the start of my magical journey with Tabitha Bird’s second novel. The Emporium of Imagination was an enchanting and magical spectacular, that taught me a thing or two about grief.
The Emporium of Imagination welcomes the reader to a strange and quirky store that moves from place to place. This special store presents its customers with unique gifts to help them heal in the face of grief or loss. When the store arrives in the Queensland town of Boonah, the caretaker of the shop makes a shocking discovery, he has only a small amount of time left to find a new custodian for his beloved store. With the pressure on to find a new protector for the store, the current supervisor has his work cut out for him. The community of Boonah are struggling in many ways and it is up to Earlatidge Hubert Umbray to make amends before his big departure. From heartbreak, loss, guilty secrets and regrets, the people of Boonah are weathering many emotional situations. In helping the township of Boonah, the Earlatidge must also confront his own personal issues. Can Hubert Umbray depart from his role in this world with no regrets?
The front cover quote for The Emporium of Imagination states boldly that, ‘A little bit of magic is going to appear.’ Yes, it did for me, despite the internal battle I face in appreciating books with a magical realism tone. I have a bit of a strained relationship with magical realism and fantasy based stories. Tabitha Bird’s book did challenge me as a reader, especially as I had to suspend my disbelief. However, it made me smile and reflect. What I appreciated the most about The Emporium of Imagination was where this book took me imagination wise. It really allowed me to explore my creative spirit, in written form!
The Emporium of Imagination is filled with a number of bold cast members and this adds a high level of vibrancy to the unfolding tale. With many memorable characters with fascinating story angles, Tabitha Bird’s second novel is a performance not to be missed! I came to embrace many of the protagonists and their individual pathways as the book made its fantastical journey. It felt like I was a direct part of the fabric of this eclectic community for the time that I spent in the company of The Emporium of Imagination.
Structurally, there is a lot to like about The Emporium of Imagination. I appreciated the short chapter format, which is clearly marked out in day form. The sharp chapter format did encourage me to read just one more chapter, until I realised I had raced through Tabitha Bird’s novel in just a day. This is probably not the best way to approach the book, I think The Emporium of Imagination should be read at a slower pace to absorb all this original book has to offer. In terms of themes, this is a novel packed to the brim with messages of love, passion, hope, regret, blame, guilt, second chances, fate, choice, loss, death and moving on. With the umbrella theme of magic underlining the overall tone of The Emporium of Imagination, this is a one-of-a-kind piece of fiction. It is clear that Tabitha Bird is comfortable in the magical realism and contemporary fiction genre. Bird blends these two areas well, which we saw in the author’s debut, A Lifetime of Impossible Days.
I loved the store itself, which is the centre of the happenings in the novel, it was a unique conglomeration. The idea that a shop exists as a place where people can go to process their grief was a touching and original narrative direction. Tabitha Bird approaches this area of her novel with a sense of understanding, sensitivity and charm. The parting messages around the store were poignant and moving, leaving a lasting impression on my mind.
Be sure to embrace this very special novel lovingly created by a passionate storyteller. The Emporium of Imagination is a recommended read, especially if you are searching for something a little outside the box!
The Emporium of Imagination by Tabitha Bird was published on 30th March 2021 by Penguin Books Australia. Details on how to purchase the book can be found here.
To learn more about the author of The Emporium of Imagination, Tabitha Bird, visit here.
*I wish to thank the author for providing me with a free copy of this book for review purposes.
The Emporium of Imagination is book #36 of the 2021 Australian Women Writers Challenge