Review published on February 6, 2018.
This is a magical book and if you loved The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern then you will love this too!
Papa Jack’s Emporium is a toy shop, but unlike its London neighbour Hamley’s this is one that only opens as ‘the first frost hits the London rooftops’ and closes ‘when the first snowdrop pokes out from the winter soil’.
Run by Jekabs Goldman and his two sons, Kaspar and Emil, the shop is a wonderland where plain toys are not to be seen but toy soldiers seem to come to life to fight and scraps of paper can become magical forests and wild animals and birds.
Into this Emporium comes Cathy Wray, who in 1907 finds herself carrying a child and is told she must give it up on birth. When her sister Lizzie shows her a newspaper with an advert for a vacancy to work at the toyshop, Cathy decides to run away and try and make a new life for herself and her child.
The story spans Cathy’s apprenticeship in the shop, becoming a mother and the problems she must face as the shop and the Goldman family face the threat of war and the spectre of prejudice against the brothers and their father, who have already once escaped persecution from war across Europe.
With some adaptations this could also be a children’s book, but adults who can suspend disbelief at the fantasy and joy of the magic goings on in the toy shop will surely engage with the wonderful characters and the lives they lead.
Let’s not forget the power of toys to get into our imagination in literature, and of course in films and animation. So if you loved ‘Toy Story’ you can enjoy the wondrous Imperial Kapitan and the magic paper forests inhabited by wild bears and birds in this novel.
There are also moral and cultural aspects brought out in the story – making it like any fairy tale – of importance to all of us in life.
I hadn’t heard of this author before but he writes well and I will look out for other novels by him.
A fantastic personal read to escape into and one some book clubs could definitely find much to discuss about.
Philipa Coughlan 4/4
The Toymakers by Robert Dinsdale
Del Rey 9781785036347 hbk Feb 2018