Book Review: The Toymakers by Robert Dinsdale

I found it hard to come back down to reality after reading this book. It delights, inspires, and draws you in from the very first few pages, and my second read of it did not disappoint.

Here’s the synopsis if you haven’t read it already:

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…

My Review

Yes, it’s my second read of this book. Which means I knew mostly of what was to happen and this fact did spoil it for me on the second read, but I don’t think it lessoned any of the magic or wonder. It still delighted my inner child bookworm for I only needed to pick up the book to fall into the mystical and magical world of The Emporium again. I dwelt amongst its pages and felt those familiar words and characters in my mind, and I loved it so.

Cathy Wray is such a strong, capable character – even when she is sixteen at the beginning of the book. You get the impression she has a bit of a worldly nature about her, which plays nicely with the otherworldly in The Emporium. 

The Godman brothers are like two sides of the same coin – as mentioned by the author in the book, one light, one dark, and both trying to find their place in The Emporium walls, to make their father proud but also to inspire others with their toycraft. It’s hard almost to watch how Emil struggles, while Kaspar has a natural talent for bringing his toys to life.

I loved the magic and wondear of The Emporium, but I liked the merging of the real world too – of World War One and its effects on the Godman family. Of Cathy herself and her child born to the magical toyshop. The author connected the two worlds deftly and perhaps was made to intentionally have the reader know a little of the struggles of keeping magic going when the real world comes calling.

In the end the magic that encompasses it all is love. And perhaps that’s the essence of this story – the many facets of love and hate, the relationships and the bonds that connect us, and the light and darkness of both reality and dreams.

I give it 5 out of 5 stars.


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