Wednesday, 3 January 2018

Review: The Toymakers by Robert Dinsdale

'Are you a child at heart?' 

It's going to be really ironic if the first book I read in 2018 turns out to be my favourite for the entire year but The Toymakers is utterly, utterly brilliant and I absolutely loved it. 

The story starts in 1906 with Cathy Wray running away to London to avoid having to give her baby up for adoption. She finds work at a very unusual toy shop called The Emporium, run by Jekabs Godman (Papa Jack) and his two sons, Kaspar and Emil, who are not much older than her. Kasper is the charmer, flirting with all the shop-girls and effortlessly creating the most magical toys, whereas Emil is more serious and specialises in designing the toy soldiers the brothers use to play their 'Long War'.

I loved The Toymakers for its sheer inventive brilliance. Imagine the toy shop equivalent of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. Like Doctor Who's TARDIS, The Emporium is bigger on the inside and the aisles are 'alive' with steam trains, toy soldiers, and patchwork animals. The shop opens with the first frost of winter and closes when the first snowdrop flowers on the terrace. The Godmans spend the rest of the year creating their wonderful toys and we get to know a bit more about their lives. I particularly loved the 'instant' trees, which grow into a real forest as soon as their roots touch the ground, and Sirius the patchwork dog. And I definitely fell more than a little bit in love with Kaspar.

The Toymakers deserves to become one of those Christmas classics, enjoyed year after year, although it's not strictly a children's book, more a fairy tale for adults. Along with the magic and romance there are darker, bleaker moments too. We learn of Papa Jack's past as a prisoner in Siberia; the First World War and the effects of post-traumatic stress disorder are also touched upon. The only thing about the story I didn't like was that it ended in 1953; I'd have preferred the timeline to have been shorter.

I always find the books I love the most the hardest to write reviews for. I expect it's because I want you to love them as much as I do. So I'll just add that I thoroughly recommend The Toymakers, especially to those who are still a child at heart.

I was lucky enough to receive an advance copy of The Toymakers, which will be published on 8th February 2018.

Thank you to Robert Dinsdale, Ebury, and Netgalley for my copy of this book, which I received in exchange for an honest review.

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