Happy Thanksgiving! As you probably noticed, I’m a tad late in posting–darn Thursday-Holidays messing with my vibe–but I’ll be back on schedule next week!
I’ve never really been one for dolls–there’s something about them that either seem slightly too real or way too fake about them. But I do understand how dolls can be tangible metaphors for life…just look at Toy Story and how much Woody and Buzz learned about friendship and acceptance/moving on.
All that said, I also understand how dolls can be appealing, especially the older, rarer, collector ones. So when reading Nina Allan’s The Dollmaker, I completely understood protagonist Andrew Garvie’s fascination with them (even if I can’t actually relate to his level of enthusiasm). I enjoyed this novel, even if it was slightly odd at times, and I think it’s worth the read if you’ve got the time.
It takes place in England in the 21st century and primarily follows doll maker Andrew Garvie as he travels across the country to meet the love of his life…who he’s never actually met: a woman in a psych hospital who also loves dolls. The novel is organized by way of prose from Garvie’s perspective as he describes his journey; letters between him and Bramber Winters, his crush; and short stories from fictional author and doll maker Ewa Chaplin, a Polish emigrant from WWII. These stories eerily echo aspects of Garvie’s life, so they give the novel an overall spooky feel while also giving a twisted sense of context to Garvie.
Even though I wish some of Chaplin’s short stories were slightly shorter, I liked the fact that they were included. They gave a sense of insight into Chaplin and by extension Winters who is fascinated by her.
Overall, it was an entertaining read, even though it was a little long at times. I loved how descriptive Allan is throughout the novel, especially when she was describing and giving voice to the various dolls in the story. Through their description, they developed almost as much character as the actual characters in the book.
If I had to describe this book like a movie, I’d probably say it exists somewhere in the realm of psychological thriller or drama. Allan tackles themes such as abuse, infidelities, obsession, and even romance in a creative way. However, don’t assume that it’s simply all dark doom and gloom–there are slivers of hope throughout the novel, glimpses of humanity and just general daily life. Allan gives the characters and storyline a real sense of realism, even if through the lens of dolls and funky short stories.
I’d say this is definitely worth checking out if you like unique, descriptive fiction, and honestly I can’t think of a reason why you wouldn’t like it. Unless you just don’t like stylistic deviations and prefer just straight prose.