Today I am sharing my review for The Dollmaker by Nina Allan. My thanks to Quercus Books for accepting my request to review this title via NetGally.
Let’s have a look and see what this one is all about …
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.
The synopsis tells quite clearly what this story is about. This is a story with other stories woven into them. A story about Andrew and Bramber, and their correspondence with each other. They have a shared interest in dolls, not just any dolls either. These are sought after items, they have a history and at times a price tag. Andrew decides he wants to visit Bramber and so takes a journey, during which he reads a story book. It’s by Ewa Chaplin, she also made dolls.
This is a slower paced story that felt a little erratic at the beginning. It took me a good while before I got to grips with the characters, their stories, the alternating timelines and the style. Gradually I found myself drawn into the story and the stories. It was one of those books where I suddenly found myself somewhat caught up and hadn’t realised it had happened. I think a lot was to do with curiosity and to see where the story would take me. The short stories that Andrew reads during his journey are at times on the dark, or very dark side, they are like twisted fairy tales. There are things that mirror Andrew’s life.
I enjoyed this book and I have a feeling that it is not going to be for everyone. At times it has the feel of literary fiction, with a mix of fairy tale and fantasy. There is subtle romance aspect to it though not one that follows the usual route or expectation.
It’s one of those books that I think will divide readers, for me, there are parts I really enjoyed and others not so much. It has an unusual structure to it and it will be interesting to see what other readers think of this one.
Nina Allan is a novelist and critic. Her first novel The Race won the Grand Prix de L’imaginaire and was a Kitschies finalist. Her second novel The Rift won the British Science Fiction Award, the Kitschies Red Tentacle and was a finalist for the John W. Campbell Memorial Award. Her short fiction has previously been shortlisted for the Hugo Award, the Shirley Jackson Award and the British Fantasy Award. Her most recent novel is The Dollmaker. Born in London, Nina Allan lives and works in the west of Scotland.
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