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Book Review – The Toymakers by Robert Dinsdale

Book Review – The Toymakers by Robert Dinsdale

Hardcover, 480 pages. Published February 8th 2018
Historical Fiction/Magical Realism

A magical, wonderful and deeply imaginative historical story that had me enchanted from the first turn of the page to the last.

the toymakers by robert dinsdale

“Running away was not like it was in stories. People did not try and stop you. They did not give chase. The thing people didn’t understand was that you had to decide what you were running away from. Most of the time it wasn’t mothers or fathers or monsters or villains; most of the time you were running away from that little voice inside your head, the one telling you to stay where you are, that everything will turn out all right.”

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The Emporium opens with the first sign of frost…

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 on 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 Review

It is not often that a book pulls me in, in the way that The Toymakers did.

“A toy cannot save a life, but it can save a soul.”

I am going to do my best to review this book but I am really not sure whether or not ill be able to convey in my own words just how special this book is.

From the very first page Robert Dinsdale creates a world that is absorbing, mesmerising and enchanting. The words seem to pull you into the pages and the more you read, the more you do not want to leave.

This is a beautiful fairy tale for adults that reminds you of what it is to be a child and of course, the magic of toys.

The writing is exceptional. Stunning and almost poetic.

The characters are lovable, authentic and deep.

The story is told through the eyes of Cathy, a pregnant teenage runaway into the magical world of Papa Jack’s Emporium. A world where patchwork animals come to life, Wendy houses are bigger on the inside that on the out and toy soldiers play the long war.

“Are you lost? Are you afraid? Are you a child at heart? So are we.”

Beginning in 1907 and ending in 1953 you will explore the lives of those who live and work in the Emporium through the war. You will become invested in their lives and families. You will feel happy, sad and by the end you will be so taken in my the magical world that has been created here that you will not want to leave it.

The Emporium is awe-inspiring. The writing so visual. You can feel the magic wrapped in every word. You can almost see and touch it. I’ve never read anything quite like it. On the outside, Papa Jack’s looks like any other toy shop but on the inside it is like nothing you have ever experienced. It is to be seen to be believed.

Papa Jack himself is the father, the rock and the creator. The man who brought the Emporium to life. Beginning in 1907 the book tells the story of his two sons, Kaspar and Emil and their fight for control of the Emporium.

Kaspar, the older brother is like his father. He understands and creates the same kind of magic and builds wonderous toys like you wouldn’t believe.
Emil, the younger brother, strives to build toys like his brother and father. His talent lies in the creating of the toy soldiers, the armies which are a huge part of this tale.

“The most terrible things can happen to a man, but he’ll never lose himself if he remembers he was once a child.”

This book begins as a wonderous fairy-tale and love story and slowly becomes deeper, darker as it explores war, trauma, jealousy and a fight for control.

“Whatever happens out there, it won’t be like the Long War. What sort of madness might that be? To wind up a battalion of living things and march them at one another, as if that might win a war?”

Upon returning from war, characters and relationships are turned upside-down. Things will never be the same in the Emporium again. 


I have done my best to convey my thoughts in a way that avoids spoilers. Trust me when I say that a lot happens in this story that will shock and surprise you. There are many moments that will make you laugh and some that might make you cry.

This is a book that will join the likes of Harry Potter and sit on my shelves to be read over and over again.



6 thoughts on “Book Review – The Toymakers by Robert Dinsdale

  1. Louise, this is a superlative review of what is one of my all-time favourite books! Reading your thoughts on it reminds me why I loved it so much, enchanting, magical, awe-inspiring! Well done … lovely to connect with you and chat all about books!😀

    1. Thank you so much! I actually found it so difficult to put my thoughts into words when it came to this one. This book meant a lot to me and I just want to share that feeling with everyone! It’s like nothing I’ve ever read before. I am so glad you felt the same! Definitely up there as a firm favourite from now 🙂

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