The Toymakers

Pub Date:   |   Archive Date: 22 Feb 2018

Member Reviews

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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Very unique book, a little gem of a read and a great story line full of characters you can really imagine exist! was an truly magical book and one I won’t forget in a hurry! I was quite saddened to leave Papa Jacks wonderful emporium and hope to visit once again soon’
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Overall I thought this was a great book. It took me a little while to get into but after a few chapters I got into the flow of the writing. I thought the characters were well written and interesting, although a few lacked some depth. The plot itself fell a little flat for me. I can't really put my finger on why but I just wasn't as invested in it as I wanted to be. Despite this I still thought this was a good book and would recommend checking it out, especially if you enjoy historical fiction and/or magical realism.
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Pure magic from start to finish!
1906, and 15 year-old Cathy Wray is pregnant, her baby under threat. Her parents can't abide the shame so before she starts showing they're planning to send her away...discreetly. But when Cathy feels the fluttering of a tiny heart inside her she knows she can't let that happen. But where is she to go? When she sees a newspaper ad for staff at Papa Jack's Toy Emporium, appealing for the lost and child-like, it appeals to her and she turns up on opening night hoping she's found a safe haven.
And she has. Very quickly this place of wonder and magic becomes her home. As soon as Papa Jack's eldest son Kaspar realises her predicament he secrets her away at the end of the season to have her baby in peace and safety. Kaspar's younger brother Emil discovers her hiding place, and believing himself to be the only one who knows of her whereabouts, it starts a subtle war between the brothers for Cathy's affections. Emil, ever the inferior toymaker, ever in his elder brother's shadow, must surely make this his time to shine.....
When war invades the sanctity of eternal childhood, decisions have to made, sacrifices inevitable, but some are harder to make than others. With Kaspar away at war, and Emil, rejected by the army, left to keep the Emporium up and running there are some tough times ahead. After Kaspar's return the rivalry will culminate in the ultimate betrayal.
This novel is so much more intricate than I can put into words at this particular moment, it is so rich and deep. Steeped in magic and fantasy yet so starkly real. Reading this book will take you back to the innocence you felt as a child whilst at the same time dealing with the horrors of war and the absolute power one person can have over another. It's so intricate it's hard to describe just how much you get out of the reading experience. The best thing you could do is read it for yourself! Absolutely no doubt in giving this one 5 stars.
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The Toymakers is made of equal parts magic and heartbreak. You can't help but be absorbed into the world of the emporium and feel like you are their watching their lives and events unfold, 

The Toymakers not only make you get to know the characters of the emporium but become their family, feeling everything that happens to them. You see the magic of the emporium through the eyes of Cathy for the first time, paper forests, patchwork dogs that feel alive and of course the Wendy house.

The relationships in the Toymakers will make you fall in love then crush your heart and then fall in love again! 

I would definitely recommend this book for anyone looking for a historical fiction with a little bit of magic thrown in.
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I loved this book.  Young Cathy Wray finds herself pregnant, much to her parents shame as she is unmarried.  Her parents have arranged for her to go into a mum and baby home till after the birst, from where her baby will be adopted.  Before that can happen Cathy sees a staff wanted advert for Papa Jack's Emporium in London and quickly plans to make the journey.  

Papa Jack runs the emporium with the help of his housekeeper and his sons, Emil and Kaspar.  Papa Jack's is a magical place where people forget their worries and remember the pleasure and innocence of their childhood. However the emporium opens at the first frost of winter and closes shortly after Christmas. At first Cathy is able to hide her condition but as the time for the emporium to close for the summer gets closer, Cathy attracts the attention of Emil's sons.  

The story that follows is one of wonder, hope and many other emotions.  It is the kind of shop anyone would love the visit and is only limited in parts by the reader's imagination.  A toy shop unlike any other and a cracking read.  With thanks to the publisher and NetGalley for a copy in return for an honest review.
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Where to start?  There are so many layers to this story.  Fairy tales and fables.  Magic and the mundane.  Light and shadows. Sibling rivalry (to its extreme!).  Birth and death.  PTSD and mental health.  Charity and kindness.  And at the heart of it, Papa Jack and his Emporium.

The Toymakers will take you back to your childhood, to the sights and sounds and smells, evoking memories and comfort and safety.  To a time of innocence and wonder.  Papa Jack's experiences taught him the truth which we get to see when he 'shows' Cathy Wray (I felt it keenly at the time but it's fading now which makes me feel sad) and his sons, Kaspar and Emil need to understand this truth before they can become the magicians they have the power to be.  In the darkest and most brutal time is when you find the brightest light ...

Much of the story is set in The Emporium and I would love to see this on a movie screen!  It opens at first frost each year and then closes when the first snowdrop flowers.  It is magical with its moving aisles and fantastical toys both on the shelves, on the floor and in the air.  The workshops are awesome with their mundane materials and a thrumming of energy.  Aisles and counters throng with parents and their children, that is until WWI comes and changes much more than a loss of customers to The Emporium.

There is so much I want to talk about but no spoilers.  It's really hard not to tell you about one of the key parts of the story.  It's a fascinating concept and felt real.  And at the end when we find out ... mind blowing!

The Emporium is a time out of time, with worlds within worlds and The Toymakers is an experience I won't be forgetting for a very long time.  Outstanding.

This is the first book I've read by Robert Dinsdale but won't be the last!
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a Magical and whimsical book, I was enchanted from the very first page and I didn't want it to end.
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Cathy is in a predicament. She’s unmarried and pregnant. To run from the shame that awaits her she runs away to Papa Jack’s Emporium to make a new start for herself. The Emporium holds many secrets within its walls, will surely keep Cathy’s too?

Cathy soon learns of the wonder and magic that Papa Jack and his sons Kaspar and Emil weave into their toys. From the toy soldiers that fight the Long War to the patchwork animals that you fall in love with.

This story is incredibly rich and full of imagination that will take you into another world. I became immersed in Cathy’s story and quickly grew to love Kaspar and Papa Jack.

Dinsdale has written in such an eloquent way that you actually become invested in the wonder and magic that his toys become real characters. I adored Sirius the dog and really felt for the Kapitan and his heartbreaking ‘life’. It’s skilled writing that invokes such emotions.

There is some sadness in this story that I wasn’t expecting. Papa Jack’s history was tragic, which made you rejoice in the passion that he had for making the Christmases of so many children filled with surprise and wonder.

With the imagination of a child, and the wisdom of an adult, Dinsdale is an author to watch out for!
I would like to thank Netgalley for an ARC of this book in return for a review.
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The Emporium is a toy shop in London, on a mews off Regents Street. It opens each year with the first frost and closes when the snowdrops bloom. If that makes it sound like a place of poetry and magic, of mystery and joy then, yes, it is. It is run by Jekabs Godman, known as Papa Jack, an émigré from Eastern Europe and his sons Kaspar and Emil and creates the kind of toys which every child would dream of having. Things that glitter and fly, that grow and love you back: toys which are as full of magic and imagination as a child's mind. Into this world comes Cathy Wray, just 16 years old and pregnant, who takes a job for the season in her efforts to escape her family's plans to brush the shame of an illegitimate child in Edwardian Leigh-on-Sea*

The story sees Cathy become a part of the Godman family, as does her child Martha who was born in a sort of enchanted wendy house in the store. She is beloved by Papa Jack, who shares with her the harrowing story of his early life as a political prisoner, and by both brothers but she falls for the older sibling, Kaspar. The real world does impinge on the Emporium - Kaspar suffers horribly in the trenches of the Great War and Emil is shamed by the fact that he is unable to serve - and life is not always happy or easy. But the power of toys and a child's imagination is always there to help people to survive. The book is probably best described as a sort of magical realism but the sort of magic, and reality, which lives in the heart of the very young.

*I grew up only a few miles from Leigh-on-Sea. As soon as saw this I knew I'd love this book...
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