Back in mid-March, I read the historical-fantasy, The Toymakers by new-to-me author, Robert Dinsdale. Published in 2018, I bought it that very year as a Christmas present for my mum, as I had read good reviews of it and it was recommended for fans of The Miniaturist by Jessie Burton; which my mum and I were! After really enjoying it herself, my mum passed it back to me to read, so I had high expectations for this one.
On the first frost of winter, every year, there is only one place that all Londoners, young and old, are heading for and that is Papa Jack’s Toy Emporium: a place of wonder, hope and enchantment, a place where children’s dreams can come true, where adult’s relive their childhood and the impossible becomes possible; all tucked away in a quiet, dark nook of Mayfair, behind a drab, ordinary shop façade. Through the Emporium’s unassuming doors steps the desperate, teenage runaway, Cathy Wray in search of a job.
And it is through Cathy’s eyes, we discover the true extent of this marvellous labyrinthine store and Papa Jack’s famous, magical toys: from hobby horses, patchwork dogs and bears that seem alive; to toy boxes bigger on the inside than out and ‘instant trees’ that sprout from boxes; and even tin soldiers that can fight battles all by themselves. A bright beacon of colour and light, in a dark and dangerous world, where ordinary people can forget their dull, grey lives for a couple of hours and take a piece of magic home with them. All of which Dinsdale brings to life beautifully in his descriptions and boy, does he have one great imagination!
The Emporium becomes even more for young Cathy though, as she finds a home among the endless, moving shelves, storerooms, corridors and workshops, with Jack Godman; his two sons, Kaspar and Emil; and the odd assortment of devoted staff, who come back each year to work a joyous winter season. However change is coming and as times passes the Great War comes to Europe and the bitter ‘Long War’ escalates between Kaspar and Emil. And as we come to care for it’s characters, we learn that the Emporium is not immune to loss, death and treachery, but through it all it never loses its magic…
All in all, I thought The Toymakers was an enchanting, twisting and turning, fairy tale for adults, with all the magic and sometimes terror that entails! I have to admit it was a slow burn read to begin with, but by the end it had me on the-edge-of-my-seat and reading long into the night, and I never saw that ending coming!! Great read.
I’d love to hear from you: Have you read this? Would you like to? Have you read any of Robert Dinsdale’s other novels?
This is book #2 for my Historical Fiction Reading Challenge 2020, which means I have completed the first, 20th Century Reader, level of the challenge. I am aiming for the third, Renaissance Reader, level by reading 10 books