Van has finished reading… The Dollmaker by Nina Allan

7 Jun


What a strange and intricate story Nina Allan’s The Dollmaker is. Quiet and compelling, it draws you steadily into a narrative that seems almost to defy expectation. It’s not that the course of events is overtly strange or otherworldly but that you never quite feel at ease with where you think things are, or where they might be going. The prose is really interesting, reading so convincingly like historical fiction I found myself surprised time and again by the markers of our modern world. Take away the technological markers and this story could conceivably be happening just about any time in the last hundred years. It’s this that underpins the glorious whole, highlights deftly the sense of being the outsider that is central to it all. Virtually anything could happen in this book and I doubt you’d bat an eyelid. That’s quite a wonderful feeling!

It’s not often you enjoy reading a book as much as this one whilst also being able to admire the stitching, so to speak. There is that effortlessness about the writing that belies the work that goes into it but the added joy here is that the structure is so integral to the unfolding story. As Andrew, one of our protagonists, reads a series of short stories written by a revered doll maker, the plot’s mirrors begin to turn as parallels appear. Fiction reflects events as he travels to meet Bramber, with whom he has been corresponding following an ad she placed in a Doll Collector’s periodical. The things they tell each other, and the things they don’t, begin to blur reality’s lines as the folk tales blend with their experience. It’s expertly done and succeeds in taking the blinkers off completely for the reader so that anything feels possible. The tagline says it’s a love story about becoming real but there’s a shadow in that too. As reality loses definition so does certainty and the darker side of the folk tales comes to mind. Is it destiny that draws Andrew and Bramber together, or is it something else? Are they two outsiders standing against the odds, or individuals looking for a place to belong, looking for someone to bring their world to life? As the final scenes approach you just can’t help wondering who is collecting whom.


The Dollmaker was published by riverrun on the 4th April 2019 ISBN:9781787472556

You can find Nina an her website

My thanks to Ana McLaughlin at Quercus for allowing me to review this book


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