By Robert Dinsdale
The Emporium opens with the first frost of Winter and closes with the appearance of the first snowdrop. It is a place of wonder for adults and children alike.
In 1917 Cathy Wray arrives at the shop in answer to a newspaper advertisement and discovers a place more wonderful and magical than she could ever imagine.
The Toymakers by Robert Dinsdale is a magical book and one that I would highly recommend.
“The Emporium opens with the first frost of winter. It is the same every year. Across the city, when children wake to see fans of white stretched across their windows, or walk to school to hear ice cracking underfoot, the whispers begin: the Emporium is open! Christmas is coming”
Papa Jack’s emporium is a place of wonder for children and adults alike. The opening night is an eagerly anticipated and much talked about event and people young and old have fond memories of the shop.
When we first meet Cathy she has no knowledge of the Emporium and the magic it can bring into people’s lives but all that is about to change.
Cathy is taken by her mother to a place in Dovercourt to sell her unborn child. It is November of 1906 and Cathy is just 15 years old.
Cathy had sex for the first time with a boy she had been friends with since childhood and immediately after they decided it was something they didn’t want to do again. She didn’t even know she was pregnant until her mother noticed that she was late and came to talk to her.
The proprietor of the home in which she is expected to relinquish her child is an unfriendly woman to say the least and clearly looks down on Cathy and girls in her condition.
“Catherine, understand that, what we do here, we do for the very best. Your baby will rise from the shame of it’s beginnings and find a new, better life.”
After the meeting Cathy’s mother will barely look at her and sends her straight to her room telling her that she will no longer be going to school and she will only be allowed to go into the garden with her mother’s permission.
Her sister Lizzy sneaks into her room later that day and hugs her while she cries. She sneaks in a copy of the local paper and hidden inside is one of their favourite books: Gulliver’s Travels.
When her sister leaves she realises that the paper has fallen open on the advertisements and that one of them is circled.
Are you lost? Are you afraid? Are you a child at heart?
So are we.
The Emporium opens with the first frost of winter.
Sales and stocking, no experience required.
Bed and bored included.
Apply in person at London’s premier merchant of toys and childhood paraphernalia.
Papa Jack’s Emporium
Iron Duke Mews, London W1K”
After a very sleepless night Cathy ends up deciding to run away to London and try to get a position at the Emporium.
Cathy’s first view of the Emporium shows the reader just how magical it is.
“The aisles were alive, she took a step, stumbled when her foot caught the locomotive of some steam train chugging past. She was turning to miss it when wooden horses cantered past in their jagged rhythms, their Cossack riders reaching out as if to threaten the train gliding by. The aisle that she chose was lined with castles at siege. Some of the dioramas were frozen, with siege towers rolled into place, but others clicked into gear at Cathy’s footfall.”
Cathy is interviewed for the position by Jekabs Godman otherwise known as Papa Jack. Her tells her he has a talent for knowing if people are truly suited for work at the Emporium and he knows she is. She gets shown to the room she will be staying in.
Whilst at the Emporium she learns more about the magical craftmanship involved in making the toys and she gets to make a whole bunch of friends. Among the people she meets are Papa Jack’s sons Emil and Kaspar.
Emil and Kaspar are both talented toymakers and are in constant competition with each other to make the best toys for opening night.
Kaspar is charismatic and has a flair for the dramatic and Emil Is more steady and quiet. Emil is constantly battling with his need to outdo his older brother by creating better toys than him – a task he constantly fails at.
Kaspar and Emil are both intrigued by Cathy not least because she keeps herself to herself and they both sense she is hiding a secret.
Not all is sweetness and light in this book and there were times where it brought me to tears but essentially it is a book full of wonder and the magic of childhood.
This is definitely one of the best books I have read so far this year and one that will make it onto my bookshelf and not just my kindle.
Our Final Rating...
Read & Shared 80 Times.