Reviewers have said this book was perfect for lovers of The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern or Caraval by Stephanie Garber. They’re not kidding. Magical realism in its droves; toys, mysterious job adverts, frost, Christmas, and a Dickensian London. You had me at hello.
Do you remember when you believed in magic?
It is 1917, and while war wages across Europe, in the heart of London, there is a place of hope and enchantment.
The Emporium sells toys that capture the imagination of children and adults alike: patchwork dogs that seem alive, toy boxes that are bigger on the inside, soldiers that can fight battles of their own. Into this family business comes young Cathy Wray, running away from a shameful past. The Emporium takes her in, makes her one of its own.
But Cathy is about to discover that the Emporium has secrets of its own…
My reading experience:
A book of time travel, back to historical London, back to your childhood, back to Christmas. The Toymakers is a story about brotherly ties, childhood, the gift of magic, shelter in times of need, trust and of course, love.
Time and space are different inside Papa Jack’s Emporium.
Cathy Wray is 15 years old and pregnant. Faced with the prospect of giving up her baby, she runs away to the Emporium. Instead of finding shelter and work for the Christmas season, she finds a home and a family.
Emil and Kasper are brothers competing for their Papa’s respect. With Kasper finding it easier to reproduce the magic that his father creates, Emil feels as though he is constantly playing catch up. Despite this, together they make Cathy a home, and slowly show her and then bring her into the Emporium magic.
The Emporium opens at the first frost of the season and closes with the first snowdrop.
The author winds magic through the spaces between the lines, in the small spaces we see in the corner of our eyes, where our childhood sits and with it, our belief that anything can happen. The reader is quickly drawn into this world effortlessly, and taken on a pathway through the aisles of the Emporium.
“The details of a life, Cathy thought, were too vast to be covered in small talk.”
I have been blown away by this book. The author has exceeded all of my wildest dreams about merging magical realism with real-world issues and prejudices, about showing a childhood fairytale through the world of an adult, and the world of an adult through the hopes and dreams of a child. Enchanting is too cliche and yet enchanting it is as I was bewitched by the imagination of the author, the utter diversity of characters and the joy they brought me. This tale isn’t all glitter and snow, it is melancholy and filled with an array of emotion akin to regret, but mostly it is all in the perspective.
I have already pre-ordered my hardcopy. This is a keeper.
Themes: magic, toys, childhood, love, trust, brotherly competition, war, soldiers, PTSD, gender roles, time, space, loyalty
Thanks to Penguin Random House UK, Ebury Publishing and Netgalley for my free ARC.