The Dollmaker – Nina Allan

Posted 1 april 2019 by Silke (boekinwonderland) in Adult, Reviews / 0 Comments

The Dollmaker – Nina Allan

Stitch by perfect stitch, Andrew Garvie makes exquisite dolls in the finest antique style. Like him, they are diminutive, but graceful, unique and with surprising depths. Perhaps that's why he answers the enigmatic personal ad in his collector's magazine.

Letter by letter, Bramber Winters reveals more of her strange, sheltered life in an institution on Bodmin Moor, and the terrible events that put her there as a child. Andrew knows what it is to be trapped; and as they knit closer together, he weaves a curious plan to rescue her.

On his journey through the old towns of England he reads the fairytales of Ewa Chaplin - potent, eldritch stories which, like her lifelike dolls, pluck at the edges of reality and thread their way into his mind. When Andrew and Bramber meet at last, they will have a choice - to remain alone with their painful pasts or break free and, unlike their dolls, come to life.

The Dollmaker by Nina Allan
on 4 April 2019
Published by Riverrun Pages: 416
Genres: Adult, Magical Realism
Format: ARC

Are you ready to embark on a journey across England to find love and a shared passion of dolls?


After turning the last page of this novel I had no idea what to think. The first thought that popped into my mind was: ‘What did I just read?’ I wasn’t able to state if I liked or disliked this story. Even now days later it is quite hard to have coherent thoughts about The Dollmaker. While reading, my husband asked a couple of times what my book was about and I couldn’t even give a decent synopsis. I just kept saying: “I am not quite sure.”

And honestly I think that is the best judgement that I can give of this story. I am not quite sure what the point of this story is, but I actually enjoyed reading it. I am going to try to be a little more cohesive in this review.

The unusual structure of the book is without any doubt the strongest selling point of The Dollmaker. We follow Andrew on his journey across England to meet up with his pen pal Bramber. But we also follow Bramber, through her letters written to Andrew. And as an extra we have a series of stories within the story. These chapters are stories written by de fictional dollmaker Ewa Chaplin, a book that Andrew is reading on his journey.

The dark fairy tales of Ewa Chaplin are the true strength of the book. They are eerie, dark and interesting. Apart from that they serve a double purpose. When Andrew reads these fairy tales he sees them mirroring his own life and that of the people he meets and knows. The parallels between Andrews real life and the stories really took the story to the next level and gave the reader a deeper look into his private life.

What personally irritated me throughout the book was the fact that it was all fiction. Before you start rolling your eyes let me explain. Throughout the book there is constant talk about doll museums, doll exhibitions, doll artist and books about antique dolls. I am the kind of reader who starts to google while reading because I want to see what the author is referring to. Well… she was referring to fictional musea, fictional books and fictional artist. And honestly I am not quite sure why, because it only took me about 5 minutes to find real doll musea, real doll books and real doll artists.

Apart from that the story was just all in all not really engaging. I understand the author tried to write a magical realism story, but for me it failed. The story wasn’t engaging. It didn’t draw you in as a reader. It is dark and with a somber tone, which could have work brilliantly as an atmosphere creator. It was all too vague with no real plot and no real plot point.

The dollmaker could have been an enchanting, dark, magical story, but it just never really takes off. It is well written and the format is interesting. But the overall story is just really lacking. A shame because it could have been a wonderful reading experience.

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