The Toymakers by Robert Dinsdale
Published in: 2018
Reviewed by: Book Worm
Find it here: The Toy Makers
This ARC was provided by Penguin Random House UK (via NetGalley) in exchange for an honest review.
Synopsis from Goodreads: Do you remember when you believed in magic?
The Emporium opens with the first frost of winter. It is the same every year. Across the city, when children wake to see ferns of white stretched across their windows, or walk to school to hear ice crackling underfoot, the whispers begin: the Emporium is open!
It is 1917, and London has spent years in the shadow of the First World War. In the heart of Mayfair, though, there is a place of hope. A place where children’s dreams can come true, where the impossible becomes possible – that place is Papa Jack’s Toy Emporium.
For years Papa Jack has created and sold his famous magical toys: hobby horses, patchwork dogs and bears that seem alive, toy boxes bigger on the inside than out, ‘instant trees’ that sprout from boxes, tin soldiers that can fight battles on their own. Now his sons, Kaspar and Emil, are just old enough to join the family trade. Into this family comes a young Cathy Wray – homeless and vulnerable. The Emporium takes her in, makes her one of its own. But Cathy is about to discover that while all toy shops are places of wonder, only one is truly magical…
Book Worm’s Thoughts: From the opening line I was hooked and transported to a world where Christmas is still a magical time and children can loose themselves in the wonders of a toy store.
Having read and loved The Night Circus, I can confirm that this book has that same kind of feel. The descriptions of the Emporium, and the magic weaved by the toymakers, made me wish I lived in a world where such a store was possible. Yet, while the public face of the store is one of magic, in private sibling rivalry and jealousy threatens to rip the family and the store apart.
For those who think this is a simple children’s story of magic, be warned that the story gets very dark. The inside of the Emporium may be magical to start it with it but it doesn’t protect those inside from the horrors of the real world. Papa Jack manages to survive in pre-war Russia living by the simple maxim of remembering everyone was once a child and played with toys. However, it is harder to keep this magic in mind when faced with the horrors of WW1. The novel tackles the first World War, describes how so many of the young men who went to fight never returned home, and highlights how the war changed those who did survive.
This book also covers several important issues including the right of soldiers to choose which wars to fight, the treatment of immigrants, the importance of understanding and communication, and what makes something truly alive.
Who would like this? I would recommend this to those who enjoyed The Night Circus and those who want to believe in magic toy shops and the power of toys to save a soul.
Want to try it for yourself? You can find a copy here: The Toy Makers
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