REVIEW: The Toymakers by Robert Dinsdale

Filled with magic and sadness, Robert Dinsdale’s novel has a quirky  charm about it that keeps you engaged to the very end.

I don’t know about anybody else, but as a child I always wondered what happened to my toys as I left the room – did they come to life? If so what on earth they did with themselves during the time I was out of the room? This novel offers a magical insight into the real power of toys and the magic that they possess.

With Robert Dinsdale’s The Toymakers, there is plenty of magic to be found in The Emporium – thanks to Papa Jack’s enchanted toys that offer plenty of delight to the children who buy them. But The Emporium is also a refuge for those like Cathy Wray who runs away from home after falling pregnant. As she adjusts to life in The Emporium she begins to discover its inner secrets.

This ambitious and fairytale like story has plenty of style, with Dinsdale keeping the reader thoroughly engaged, switching perspectives between characters to create fully rounded characters who are consistently interesting to get to know. His writing style meanwhile combines wonderful imagination and thoughtfulness as to how the magic created in The Emporium (particularly with regards to the toy soldiers linking in with the Great War) blends perfectly with the reality of the situation.

Admittedly, The Toymakers is initially a struggle to get on with – slightly sluggish in pace – but well worth keeping up with when the world of The Emporium collides with events outside its walls. The description of Kasper’s struggles after he returns home from the front are so wonderfully poignant and striking – particularly in the moments when Cathy desperately tries to reach out to him, highlights just how misunderstood PTSD was during World War I.

Everything that Dinsdale writes is filled with immense detail, with references to patchwork dogs and a Wendy house that appears very different in the inside that it is possible to feel like a child again. He suggests that perhaps what we all want is that piece of comfort that we found in our favourite toys in childhood as adults to take away some of the pain of the real world. But of course as the story proves – we can never truly escape the loss of innocence as we grow up and discover more about the world.

It is certainly of two very contrasting halves, with one being playful and joyful as Cathy learns more about the magic behind the shop and home that she has entered. But it is when the horror of World War I takes place that a deeper and more meaningful side to the novel emerges – almost a shock to the system to the reader as much as to the characters ,enforcing the message that no matter what magic toys hold – we can’t hide from the harsh realities of the world forever.

Overall, I have never quite read anything like The Toy Makers. It is a vivid, compelling and magical read that allows the reader to immerse themselves in a completely different world. Well worth a read.

By Emma Clarendon

The Toymakers is available to buy now.

Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐

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