The Toymakers by Robert Dinsdale (Review by Vicki Camfield)

3.5/5* Rating

Are you lost? Are you afraid? Are you a child at heart?

There is so much to like about this enchanting novel. I really enjoy reading novels set during WWI/II, and The Toymakers, mixed with young motherhood, childhood innocence, the magic of toys, a touch of Siberian warfare and imprisonment and a ton of sibling rivalry, is no exception.

The novel begins with a 16 year old, pregnant Cathy running away from home to avoid having to terminate her pregnancy for the sake of her privileged family’s reputation. She falls in the lap of Papa Jack’s Emporium and begins working and living there straight away.

The two sons of Jasper Godman (Kaspar and Emil) both fall for Cathy immediately and unceasingly; the novel explores their sibling rivalry in not only this aspect but also in every other part of their secluded lives, including the ability to emulate their father’s magical talents in toy-making, and the ultimate prize of inheritance.

Dinsale expertly explores the idea of childhood vs adulthood and all that we tend to lose during that transition. Dinsdale does a superb job of this on many fronts: Cathy’s transition from privileged teenager to an outcast, unmarried mother; a young man going to France and coming back just one of too many broken souls; the Long War between two brothers; Papa jack’s inability to escape the trauma of his past; and Cathy stuck in the middle of it all, wondering at the choices she has made to lead her here.

I have given this book 3.5* because it was just slightly too long, the pace just slightly too slow, and the last third of the book just slightly too farfetched. It took me longer than usual to finish this book after hitting this point, and I kept finding myself putting it down and not picking it back up again for a day or two. I just don’t believe the last section of the book fit in with the rest, and I don’t think I would have missed it if it wasn’t there at all.

I’d also just like to take a minute to appreciate how beautiful the cover is on the copy that I received, with its 3D cover and single soldier printed onto the edge of the pages (which, unfortunately, I don’t think the now released book features).

This is definitely a seasonal read and I wish I had read it over the Christmas holidays instead of afterward. I would recommend it as a December GBC choice as it would definitely elicit some very interesting conversations, covering a lot of topics.

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