The Dollmaker by Nina Allan

Published by Quercus Books

Synopsis:

Stitch by perfect stitch, Andrew Garvie makes exquisite dolls in the finest antique style. Like him, they are diminutive but graceful, unique, and with surprising depths. Perhaps that’s why he answers the enigmatic personal ad in his collector’s magazine.

Letter by letter, Bramber Winters reveals more of her strange, sheltered life in an institution on Bodmin Moor, and the terrible events that put her there as a child. Andrew knows what it is to be trapped, and as they knit closer together, he weaves a curious plan to rescue her.

On his journey through the old towns of England, he reads the fairy tales of Ewa Chaplin–potent, eldritch stories which, like her lifelike dolls, pluck at the edges of reality and thread their way into his mind. When Andrew and Bramber meet at last, they will have a choice–to break free and, unlike their dolls, come to life.

A love story of two very real, unusual people, The Dollmaker is also a novel rich with wonders: Andrew’s quest and Bramber’s letters unspool around the dark fables that give our familiar world an uncanny edge. It is this touch of magic that, like the blink of a doll’s eyes, tricks our own.

This was a story with a surreal, fairy tale quality to it – the main storyline is formed as a correspondence between two unusual personalities, both are doll enthusiasts and are in some ways very similar but, in others, very different. Their correspondence is interspersed by short stories written by a fictional dollmaker that they both admire, these give the book its fairy tale quality. The stories aren’t necessarily cutesie happily-ever-after types, which is what makes this book stand out.

It wasn’t entirely to my taste as I’m a pretty literal creature, I don’t really enjoy interpreting stories and this book featured unreliable narration as well as ambiguous short stories, which was a bit too much for me to really immerse myself in the story. I do, however, appreciate this this book is going to really suit fans of surreal character studies.

What I did enjoy the most about this book is that the main characters have voices that you don’t often hear in books, their unusual perspectives are really refreshing and make for a good read. The budding friendship between these two characters is really beautiful and gave me the warm fuzzies.

To me, this is a book that’s more about the journey than the destination and meant to be savoured.

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