Some books come into your life for a reason. I can’t remember how I came to buy this book on my Kindle. It wasn’t a book I went searching for. One day last week it sort of appeared. I know this sounds like I have been eating too much sugar again or I am in the middle of a hormonal imbalance, but I believe this book found me because I needed to read it.
After devouring this book I felt different. Within the book there is a valuable message which has offered me some assistance to my writer’s life.
This book, The Toymakers, by Robert Dinsdale, is a wonderful tale. It’s been described as the ‘Narnia for adults,’ and I guarantee it will take you on a journey.
If you allow it, this story will whisk you back to your childhood when toys came alive, when Christmas was a special time and anything was possible.
The book opens in 1917. Down an alley in central London is The Emporium, a toy shop, run by Papa Jack and his two sons, Kaspar and Emil. This is no ordinary toy shop because inside magic is at play. Papa Jack, Kaspar and Emil have created an array of extraordinary toys. There are roaming patchwork dogs, cantering wooden horses, paper trees setting down roots and toy soldiers with minds of their own.
The wonder of The Emporium is seen through the eyes of pregnant teenager, Cathy, who runs away to London and goes to work at the Emporium.
For the first four chapters or so I was lost in the magic of this enchanting place. It made me realise how much I miss being a child with a crazy imagination and how much I loved playing with toys as a little girl. There were no rules, no restrictions and I just let my mind run free.
I know this sounds boastful and I am digressing but my toys had the best adventures. Every afternoon when I got home from school my Sindy doll would climb on her plastic horse and set off into the thrilling, and at times, dangerous lands found underneath my bed. Some days she found herself being rescued by a handsome stranger, Action Man doll (who I stole from the boy across the road, as he had an army of action men and Sindy was getting desperate for romantic suitors, there were only slim pickings to be had in our toy box, with just teddy bear and Barbie’s pretty boyfriend Ken) and most of the time she saved Action Man doll.
My Sindy doll would often moan about how challenging and repetitive her days were, constantly fighting beasties underneath my bed, whilst falling in and out of love. I had to remind her that for some poor dolls (the ones my sister owned) life was spent dressing up in glittery dresses, having their hair twisted into painful plaits and getting their face smeared with our mother’s lipstick. My Sindy doll wore a special survival outfit, which I had made for her, she got to ride her horse everyday, I don’t think I ever brushed her wild hair and she had caught the attention of an attractive Action Man doll. Seriously, what more did Sindy need? #Ungratefultoy
Moving on swiftly…
There is a dark and at times harrowing side to this book. War overshadows the lives of the characters and the toy shop becomes a place where they try to forget about their troubles. The book explores the brutality of war and the destructive impact it has on lives and relationships. It’s a powerful juxtaposition to the magic and wonder of the toy shop.
Alongside this is the story of Kaspar and Emil and their bitter rivalry which can only lead to suffering.
I was hooked and towards the end a little teary. There are some really beautiful scenes in this book and there are some harsh moments too, all of which make it a fabulous reading experience. I am so glad this book found me.
The Toymakers made me think about how we are all still children at heart and everyone needs a little bit of magic in their life. We get so caught up and lost with being an adult and all the serious stuff which goes with that.
Before I read this book my writing brain was very much focused on the serious stuff. I had stopped playing with words and stories. I think the act of playing and having fun is so important, even for a writer, as this is the magic part.
This book has made me want to approach writing in the same way I used to play with toys as a little girl. To take away all the mental restrictions, chuck out the rules, bin all the ‘you should be writing this sort of stuff‘ and enjoy myself. I want to set my creative mind free, stir up a bit of writer magic and PLAY! This means writing about all the things I secretly want to explore; dragons, immortal folk, vampires, ghosts, old-fashioned romance, odd people, mermaids, pirates, Victorian clock makers, family secrets, love struck shape shifters, people who have been hidden away, forests, magical stuff, scary dolls, circuses, crazy adventures and weird paint boxes.
Anything is possible. ❤️
Thank you to Robert Dinsdale for writing a great book and unshackling my creative mind.
Has a book ever come into your life for a reason?