The Toymakers

Pub Date:   |   Archive Date: 22 Feb 2018

Member Reviews

I really struggled with this. It took me a long time to read and I kept leaving it in favour of other books. It felt like the author wasn't quite sure what he wanted: kids book or descent into darkness? The contrast between the beautiful magic and the wickedness never quite worked. I was disappointed.
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The Toymaker is a captivating, rich, and an emotional read. It evoked such magical feelings and created a sense of amazement. Think The Night Circus. Yes, the story isn't original but this is a must read.
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The Toymakers is not a book I would normally pick to read as I am not a fan of fantasy/magic type books.  The reason I chose to read this is simply down to recommendations by some of the admin of a book club I am part of, and after finishing the book it is certainly something I recommend as well.  I didn't find it a fantasy/magic novel in the strictest sense, more of a historical novel with the added bit of magic.  The plot covers the first half of the twentieth century and follows Cathy Wray, who runs away from home and the trouble she is in, after seeing an advertisement for staff at The Emporium in London.  The narrative follows Cathy's life at the Emporium and her relationship with Papa Jack and his two sons Kaspar and Emil.

The Toymakers really captured my imagination and I fell into its magic.  The Toy Emporium is a magical place really brought to life by Robert Dinsdale.  I really believed in rocking horses galloping along, toy soldiers fighting battles and trees that sprouted from paper with birds in their branches.  This may all seem very fairytale like, and childish, but as in all good fairytales there is darkness lurking in its pages that spirals out of control. There is love, betrayal, filial rivalry, jealousy, relationships, and power that combine to make this such an engaging and compelling read. All the characters are flawed and have a dark side that they are running from, some in the past, and some from events the happen during the book.  Cathy has had a wonderful childhood, lovely parents, a close relationship with her sister, but one simple mistake changes her life and she makes the decision to runaway rather than face the alternative.  Her arrival at The Emporium is a catalyst for all the other events that follow.  Papa Jack is a big bear of a man, from Russia originally, and has suffered and seen some horrific things as part of the wars and revolution. For him, making toys is something he uses as a distraction from the horror he has faced and to move forward with his life; I saw him of Santa Claus figure bringing joy to adults and children alike. His sons Kaspar and Emil have always had a rivalry of who can make the best toy for the coming Christmas, but sibling rivalry can become a kind of war, like they they play with their toy soldiers; the symbol of their continual conflict and mirroring the War in Europe going on outside The Emporium. I was drawn to both of the brothers characters for different reasons; Kasper being more creative and acting the older brother, thinking he knows best, whilst Emil, the younger brother always feeling less important and trying to live up to his successful older brother I didn't want to take sides. It is these complex and changeable relationships that draw you in and keep you turning the pages.

The Toymakers is both heartbreaking and beautiful, dark and yet magical. I was enchanted by this book, the characters, their relationships and their story really drew me in.  The Emporium is a place we could all do with visiting, as lets face it, we all need a bit of magic in our lives.  The paperback is due out on September 20, and I know it's a bit early, but this would make a wonderful Christmas gift to a fellow booklover; a magical read that will capture your heart and imagination.
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Everyone loves a bit of magic and sparkle and combined with memories of childhood visits to toy shops at Christmas, the Toymakers evokes a vivid immersive experience. It made me long for my own patchwork clockwork dog. Beautifully described, this book oozes the whole gamut of love, joy, sorrow, loss and triumph over adversity. Well written and very enjoyable.
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I utterly adored the descriptions of the Emporium as well as the wonderful toys held within. It would be a perfect read for christmas time as it had quite a few moments of childhood wonderment you feel during that time of the year. Christmas feels like it is just around the corner (even though it is a few months away) and the descriptions of toys, childhood excitement for presents, whimsical decorations, the magic of Christmas and the thrill of playing with new toys during the Christmas period were rich and constant throughout this book which made it a very heartwarming, nostalgic and cosy read at times.

However, it is simultaneously a very heart warming, magical read as well as a very wistful and heartbreaking book with moments of sadness and melancholy. I never read emotional books and this one did get to me at times, especially after the half way mark of the book. I definitely prefer the more light hearted, magical elements of the book rather than the heartbreaking realities of life, uncomfortable emotions of jealousy, guilt and self doubt as well as the mental health aspects of the book but they are very important to read about and for the story. I'd definitely recommend it for it's utterly magical, Christmas themed setting and wonderful writing so if that sounds like something you'd enjoy then check out this read!
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Six stars at least!
What an amazing book.  It was almost like a series of books in one - just when you thought it was going to end, it carried on, moving into a new part of the story.  Never ending, like watching King Lear when you think 'it must be almost over now', but then it keeps going, however in The Toymakers it almost becomes a different story, and is absolutely brilliant.  Unlike King Lear, I was so sad when my copy of The Toymakers eventually came to the end, but I was so glad that the last of the twists was so clever, and so wonderful.
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This is an amazing world full of colour, magic and imagination. I laughed, I cried. This book made me feel emotions of such intensity that I can genuinely say I saw every detail through the eyes of my inner child and I never want to leave.

Thank you so much NetGalley for providing me a copy of this book. I apologise for my incredibly late review.
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Loved this so much! An utterly magical read - I didn't want to put it down! Transported me to another time and I couldn't get enough of it! Recommended to family and friends, and eagerly awaiting Robert's next book!
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This is a really difficult book for me to rate. There was a lot that I liked, but there are some things that I found so tedious and boring. For me, this straddles the line between a 2 and 3 star read. Those are the only options because half stars don’t exist! And that’s real tough because that’s the difference between recommended and not recommended. But taking the whole story into account, I finally settled on 3 stars - recommended.

I thought some characters were really strong and enjoyable, whilst others felt trivial or needed more developing for me to be invested in them. The world building and magic is fantastic. I love the emporium and all that comes along with it. Papa Jack may just be my favourite character of all time, even though we don’t see a huge amount of him. 

Unfortunately the plot felt weak and disjointed. I didn’t really like how we just skipped many years at a time. It left the story feeling rushed in parts. 

Overall, I enjoyed many aspects of this, but felt it lost its way at about the 40% mark. And although I enjoyed many aspects of the ending, it did feel like it came out of nowhere. This has some really strong world-building, and some strong characters, but unfortunately struggled to find it’s story. Therefore, the plot points felt forced. It was like the author had a few good characters, an excellent world, but wasn’t quite sure what story should be told with them. Still, and enjoyable read.

Anyway, I’m off to make a horse out of sticks and grass. Until next time, Peace and Love!
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I was slightly disappointed with the actual story which just seemed to move at a slower pace than I expected.
The imagination in the story is magical though with anything possible.
Magical, but not magic enough for me.
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I finished reading this book at the end of May, but due to other blogging commitments, I have been unable to find the time to write my review. Usually, leaving a review for so long can make it difficult to remember the impression the book made on you at the time. However, there are a few stand out points that make this book quite unforgettable.

I cannot put into words how well Robert Dinsdale captures the spirit, imagination and the magic of being a child. I may be twenty-three years old, but there were times I wished I was transported to the age of childhood innocence. It may sound daft – hey, you’re an adult! Magic isn’t real! That is where you are wrong.

In stark contrast to the joy and wonder of youth and fun of the Toy Emporium, sixteen-year-old Cathy is due to become a mother. Shunned by her parents for the impropriety of being with child out of wedlock, she flees to the Emporium to start afresh. There, she raises her child and the two of them become part of the Emporium family.

As Emil and Kaspar wage their boyhood wars, the true horrors of real war come to haunt many families. Boys are sent to the trenches. Those that come back are not the same as the boys who left to fight for Queen and country.

I was fascinated at how Papa Jack came to be a toymaker. His back-story is rich and inspiring in equal measure. The life of the Toymaker has not been easy, and it is from the darkest shadows that the brightest light shines. Beauty, love, awe, and inspiration go hand in hand with the horror and brutality, trials and hardship of the world – this inseparable combination captures the essence of life.
In Summary…

I don’t think I can successfully put into words just how much I loved this book! Each character is unique and has their part to play. It is a wonderful blend of historical fiction and fantasy – lovers of either genre would enjoy reading The Toymakers for themselves. As an avid reader of BOTH genres… perhaps then you can see why I enjoyed the book so much! I strongly recommend it to anyone interested in these genres. I don’t think you will regret it.
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A very original, magical and dark story!! And a gorgeous cover!! I started off reading this completely lost in a magical world in Papa Jacks' Emporium full of the most wonderful toys - toy soldiers that fight their own battles, instant trees and animals who appear that they are alive - but behind the toys is a family fighting their own battles, and a girl who is running away.

Cathy is a young girl who is pregnant and has brought shame on her family so they are ready to send her away, but she takes matters into her own hands and boards the train from Leigh On Sea to London where she goes for a job interview at the Emporium - it has a way of taking in waifs and strays so she is the perfect employee for them. You just have to not stop remembering what it is like to be a child and see the magic in everything. She loves her new life there and is taken to the heart of the family very quickly.

Brothers Emil and Kaspar both work for their father at the Emporium and are always trying to outdo one another with creating the most wonderful new toy. But Kaspar soon has to go off to War while Emil stays behind to help run the business and life soon takes a darker twist for them all.

I loved the magical elements to this story and wasn't really prepared for the darker sides to the story which did feel a little out of place at times as they were quite serious issues. Seeing someone dealing with PTSD - as we now know it - was a little heartbreaking to read and the effect it had on those around him.

But the characters were all well put together in their development and it was interesting to see they dynamic between them all, especially towards the end. 

I did enjoy reading this overall but would have loved more of the magical elements for more of an escapist read!
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A really captivating novel. I was absolutely engrossed from the first page to the last, and I can't recommend it highly enough!
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A beautifully written book full of magic and mystery a real page turner that I couldn’t put down. The story starts with a girl in a difficult situation who runs away from home and gets a job in the Emporium, after meeting the two very different brothers both who help her when the tone comes she finds her heart torn between the two.
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Received copy from Netgalley for honest review.

This was a spellbinding read,that really had me hooked from page 1.
Robert Dinsdale has written a thoroughly entertaining and enjoyable read.His characters had everything going for them and were beauttenchanting.
A brilliant book, and I felt for all if the characters as they grew up in The Emporioum

This book had everything,fun,sadness,joy and everything in between.
Highly recommended.
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The Toymakers follows Cathy on her journey through time. Pregnant at 16, her parents want her to give her child away and plans are being made, but Catherine decides to leave and find a life of her own that will allow her to keep the child. She flees and ends up in Papa Jack's Emporium: a magical toy shop.

The toy shop is indeed magical and the reader can follow Cathy through her life. The narrator by addressing the readers with you might not be everybody's cup of tea but it worked to create a tight bond between the reader and the story.
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The first thing that attracted me to this book was the stunning cover and then also reading that the magical element was likened to 'The Night Circus' which is a book I really enjoyed. 
I also kept thinking of the film Toy Story and upon now reviewing this book to call it a likeness miss mash of these and War would be a fair summary.
The tale starts with Cathy who at 16 and pregnant answers a newspaper add to work in Papa Jack's Emporium, she sees it as her chance to escape from entering the home for young mothers.
But the Emporium is more than just a shop it's a place where children dreams come true and adults are transported back to a time of ease and innocence.
Dinsdale allows you to marvel at the wonderfully magical sounding toys then suddenly we are brought tragically to the raging War that is going on and how it effects the employees.
So whilst we have magical realism we experience a dark shift with the tale but it still leaves you completely spellbound.
I adored this book, the pure escapism of it all in to another World it's a book that leaves you smiling and thinking about it long after you have put it down and those don't come around often!.
A full five stars from me.
My thanks go to the publishers, author and Netgalley in providing a arc in return for a honest review.
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I actually read this last month but have had difficulty putting the sheer wonder of this book into words. I first saw the book mentioned on Twitter when proofs were being sent out to bloggers and I fell in love with the cover design and description so immediately preordered a signed edition from Goldsboro. I’m so glad I did as it was exquisite. The prologue written in the second person harks back to an age of childhood innocence, magic and wonder. There’s an invitational sense of intimacy that draws the reader in without them noticing. From opening the book until closing it, the lyrical prose weaves a spell of nostalgia and wonder that is undercut by the horror of war and the creeping encroachment of the outside world.

The story starts in a manner similar to a Dickensian story with a fifteen-year-old pregnant runaway called Cathy finding Papa Jack’s Emporium and never leaving. From the ordinary magic of Cathy to the rivalry of brothers Kaspar and Emil, to the haunted memories of Papa Jack, these beautifully complex characters will linger in your mind long after you finish reading. The story spans almost fifty years in the lives of these characters, across two world wars and their aftermath. The horrors suffered by Papa Jack and Kaspar slice into the pure magic of the toy shop, fracturing relationships and threatening the impossibility of a happy ending for any of the characters. The sibling rivalry of Kaspar and Emil shapes almost the whole events of the story and one brother makes a truly awful decision that has resounding consequences for all of them. 

However, it’s the second half of the novel that encapsulates the emotional lives of these characters with such skill. It’s heartbreaking at times and the ending is certainly bitter-sweet but it’s a breathtakingly beautiful story that imprints itself on the reader’s heart. The author reminds us that, alongside the extraordinary feats of magic performed in the toy shop, is the ordinary magic of family. To forget this most important of magic is to invite devastating repercussions. I can imagine rereading this book every Christmas and discovering new depths each time. If you enjoyed The Night Circus then you need to read The Toymakers.
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A magical, wintery tale about a lost young woman and the toy shop that rescues her. Cathy is a pregnant runaway taken in by the family of Papa Jon’s Emporium - a toy shop that sells the unimaginable. With a story that spans 50 years, we see Cathy and Papa Jon’s children, Kasper and Emil, go through sibling rivalries, jealousy and two world wars all set against the backdrop of this wonderful shop. 

The writing style is hauntingly poetic, lyrical and gorgeous at first. It’s written like a historical fairy tale, with a hint of magical realism. It’s whimsical without being too light hearted, and treads the line well of telling a realistic historical tale without it being overly bittersweet or unbelievable. 

It’s a very character driven story, and because we follow the main characters over a long period of time, we see them develop and grow gradually as we experience some of the best and worst moments of their lives with them. It’s subtle and well done, as I grew very attached to some of them (Cathy in particular), and some of the emotional and psychological traumas are laid bare in a very raw and emotional way. In particular, I found the PTSD experienced by soldiers after the war harrowing and well written. I also liked the tension created between Kasper and Emil during the beginning of the book and thought their rivalry kept the first half of the book reasonably well paced and interesting. Cathy, however, was my favourite character. I found her resilient and her warmth for her family shines through. She’s almost like the matriarch that keeps everyone together. 

The Emporium itself also feels like a character in its own right. It’s a place for Cathy to feel at home, and raise a family, but also a place filled with warmth and childlike imagination that’s at once colourful and joyful. It has a personality all of its own, and the descriptions made me feel instantly transported to this magical place. 

I will say that this gradual character development over a long period of time did mean that at times the story slows significantly, with little advancement of the storyline (particularly in the middle). Because of this I struggled at times to cope with the slow pace. This isn’t really a book you can pick up and put down at will. It requires a certain amount of investment and concentration that was difficult to maintain during these slow moments. 

The tone certainly turns darker as it progresses, as we find the characters dealing with the aftermath of war and it looses a lot of its earlier charm. I found I unfortunately lost a lot of interest in the story by this point as I found it jarred so much with the promising and optimistic beginning. The characters are exposed to so much, and I found it really depressing. I wanted the whimsy and warm family atmosphere of the start. There’s also little to no magical realism, which seems to fizzle out after a promising start. 

This is a decent historical drama that is ambitious in scope and character development, but I just didn’t feel like the second half worked well with the first.
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Dinsdale creates a fascinating and original world, unlike anything I have come across before.   You are really drawn into the world of the toy emporium and those who inhabit it.  The descriptions of the various toys are probably the most successful passages in the book, as Dinsdale really succeeds in bringing them to life and engaging the reader's imagination.
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