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The Dollmaker

3.38  ·  Rating details ·  852 ratings  ·  250 reviews
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
Kindle Edition, 416 pages
Published April 4th 2019 by riverrun
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Average rating 3.38  · 
Rating details
 ·  852 ratings  ·  250 reviews

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Feb 27, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Whilst providing a challenging structure, Nina Allan writes a wonder of a luminous novel littered with dollmakers throughout. It is complex, magical, multilayered, and interspersed with the dark tales providing the reader with stories within the main story that fray and blur the edges of reality. I came close to giving up at the beginning but was richly rewarded as my persistence began to pay off as I got caught up in the atmospheric, magical and deeply unsettling storytelling that whispers of o ...more

After falling in love with Nina Allan’s work over the past year, The Dollmaker was undoubtedly my most anticipated book of 2019. You might think I’d have been eager to start reading the second I got my hands on a copy, but actually I was quite nervous about starting it. What if it didn’t live up to my sky-high expectations? What if it was just good rather than wonderful and perfect? I needn’t have worried. This is indeed a wonderful novel, and though I know it’s a bit si
Apr 19, 2019 rated it it was ok
Shelves: literary, netgalley
I was initially attracted to The Dollmaker by the cover and the description but it turned out to be quite different from what I expected. The book has an unusual structure: an episodic first person account by Andrew, a collector and maker of dolls, of his journey to the West Country to meet Bramber; letters from Bramber to Andrew from the institution where she resides; short stories with a dark, fairy tale quality purporting to have been written by dollmaker, Ewa Chaplin.

I found Andrew's narrati
L.S. Popovich
I was drawn to this book because of its reviews. They promised stories within stories. I got that. There was a very clear central plot thread, and many blatant messages about marginalized individuals. I felt that most of the characters were easy to sympathize with. Overall it was very well done, except for a few minor mishaps.

Personally, I felt that about 30-40 pages might have been trimmed. The interpolated dark fairy tales were sometimes more interesting than the central narrative. The weaknes
Lou (nonfiction fiend)
The Dollmaker is award-winning author Nina Allan's third novel and being the epitome of strange it rather defies classification or categorisation. I have always been drawn to weird or absurdist fiction so this was right up my street. It follows protagonist Andrew who fondly remembers falling in love with a doll, Marina Blue, when he was just a boy leading to his lifelong passion for dolls. He strikes up a friendship with another doll aficionado, a woman who he hopes could be interested in a rela ...more
Another novel that took a while to get seriously into, but once I passed the 20 pages or so mark, I just couldn't put it down until the excellent ending; charming, great characters and very interesting as a story too, though with patches of (almost unexpected) darkness that we discover as we go along - the book while a first-person narration from the very short (almost a dwarf) Andrew Garvie, the dollmaker, employs both first-person letter writing from his pen-pal and doll aficionado, Bramber, a ...more
Lucy Banks
Dec 23, 2018 rated it it was amazing
I received a copy of this book from Netgalley, in exchange for an honest review.

Highly unusual structure, beautifully written - a nice change from the norm!

Okay, I'll be straight with you here. At first, I was bewildered with this book. I didn't know at all what to make of it. Then, all of a sudden, it sank in. I realised how very clever it was, and also how wonderfully elusive (how I love books that don't hand everything to you on a platter, but let you draw your own conclusions). And despite b
Victoria (Eve's Alexandria)
Apr 19, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: fantasy, bought-2019
The Dollmaker bears all the hallmarks of Nina Allan’s fiction: it’s an orchestral piece of multiple harmonies, delicately stitched together out of different genres of story. Like the dolls that its central characters love and make it is much more than the found, borrowed and crafted materials from which it is made. Allan specialises in a kind of storytelling that I can best describe as resonant. Motifs, themes and imagery move through her work in a way that is intuitive rather than thematic. I r ...more
"Like if there was another version of reality right next to ours, a version of the world in which the quarry never closed down, and so the trains kept on running. And maybe sometimes people in our world can hear them, the way you can sometimes hear people talking through the walls in the house next door."

No book is perfect since perfection doesn't exist. But there are books that would almost deserve this praise, because you don't only love them despite their flaws, you literally cannot think of
Mar 25, 2019 rated it liked it
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 c
The Nerd Daily
Jun 13, 2019 rated it really liked it
Originally posted on The Nerd Daily | Review by Carolyn Percy

9 / 10

Andrew Garvie has loved collecting antique dolls since he was a child, so much so that he now makes his own. Dolls that are very much like him, miniature (Andrew has proportionate dwarfism) but graceful, with plenty of hidden depths. One day, he answers an enigmatic personal ad in his collector’s magazine: “INFORMATION (biographical / bibliographical / photographic) on the life and work of EWA CHAPLIN AND/OR friendship, correspon
Apr 18, 2019 rated it it was ok
Shelves: 2019
I received an e-copy of this book from the publisher via NetGalley for review purposes. Thank you!

Nina Allen’s The Dollmaker is a strange novel. It contains a jumble of elements: a boy, then a man, interested in making dolls, his long-distance friendship with a mysterious woman, conducted by the means of letters, short stories written by a (purportedly) Polish refugee, concerned with strange events, dolls and dwarfs, and the way fiction and “real life” permeate each other.

There are many pieces
Tucker  (TuckerTheReader)

Many thanks to Other Press for sending me a copy in exchange for an honest review

i tried to find a creepy old doll we used to have but it seems to have disappeared...

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Feb 27, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: kindle, netgalley
This is probably a book you either love or hate, since it's definitely off the beaten path and takes a bit of getting used to. I highly recommend perseverance!

Ever since childhood, Andrew has been fascinated with dolls. Later in life he becomes a collector and dollmaker himself. Through an ad in a collector's magazine he gets in touch with Bramber, who is looking for information on Ewa, a dollmaker from the past. They start a snailmail correspondence in which we get to know their characters and
Apr 08, 2019 rated it liked it
Shelves: 2019, earc
I read this book courtesy of NetGalley and the publisher, in exchange for a review. My opinions are my own.

I discovered Nina Allan slightly more than a year ago, and I fell in love with her writing in The Rift and The Race; they were some of my favourite novels read last year, so I was beyond excited to get ahold of her newest novel, The Dollmaker, even though the description didn't really appeal to my taste. And really, the novel was both what I love about Allan's writing and what made me wary
Abbie | ab_reads
Apr 27, 2019 rated it liked it
3.5 stars!
Oct 17, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A beautiful, yet painful, read, The Dollmaker tells the story of two unique people trying to find their way to each other. Set on Cornwall's moors, this moody, compelling story is interwoven with several short stories; each of which packs a powerful punch on their own. Untangling themes of art, longing, misfits, taking chances, and healing from childhood trauma, Nina Allan writes a tale that both tugs at your heart and satisfies your literary cravings. Bravo! ...more
Kelly Van Damme
Mar 12, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: netgalley
I had never read any of Nina Allan’s books, but when I saw The Dollmaker on Twitter, there was just something about the cover that spoke to me, something in the blurb that drew me in, so I dashed to NetGalley and requested it. When I was approved I was over the moon! Then I started reading it, and to be perfectly honest: I thought I’d made a mistake in requesting The Dollmaker, that maybe it wasn’t one for me. But me being me, I decided not to count my chickens before they hatched and give it a ...more
Catherine McCarthy
Sep 19, 2020 rated it it was amazing
My first thought while writing this review is, how can it possibly be rated at 3.47? I can only imagine that some readers were misled by the title into believing that the story might somehow be cute, or at worst a bit spooky. The blurb, too, does not warn you of just how bizarre parts of this story are. Personally I loved it! I devoured every page of writing. The prose was complex, weird, deliciously dark and, at times, twisted. As a writer myself, Nina Allan is one to learn from.
I loved the mix
When I first heard about this book, I was expecting something enchanting, akin to The Toymakers by Robert Dinsdale or The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern, and maybe a dash of The Miniaturist by Jessie Burton.

Maybe there’s more of that later on in the book, but I wouldn’t know. I found the opening chapters to be dull and uninviting, and the interjecting stories within the story bothered me, so I’ve decided to DNF it. Apologies but it wasn’t for me.

The only takeaway I have is an overwhelming no
My thanks to Quercus Books/riverrun for an eARC via NetGalley of Nina Allan’s third novel, ‘The Dollmaker’, in exchange for an honest review.

Andrew Garvie is a creator of exquisite dolls in the traditional style. He has always been something of an outsider. When he sees an advert in a collector’s magazine seeking information on Polish dollmaker, Eva Chaplin, and/or friendship he answers it. Thus, he and Bramber Winters begin a correspondence. Through these letters she slowly reveals details of
Dec 13, 2018 rated it liked it
Shelves: for-review
A great deal has been written on dolls. There are voluimes on the history of dolls, the provenance of dolls, the value of dolls, heavy catalogues filled with lavish illustrations, images that quicken the blood and stimulate desire. I have read that the doll is a surrogate: for friendship or for family, for love. Most children grow out of dolls eventually, but not the collector. The true collector, like the poet or the idiot, remains prey to the intensified sensibilities of childhood until the
Jan 30, 2019 rated it liked it
Shelves: netgalley
What made this book stand out for me is its unusual structure. What might have been a love story of fairly limited scope - two people, personally challenged in different ways, corresponding over a shared love of antique dolls and doll-making, followed by Andrew’s slow journey across England to meet up in person - is enhanced by a series of stories within the story. These are the work of a fictional Polish dollmaker of the mid-20th century and uncannily reflect events in Andrew’s own life, unders ...more
Aimee Walker Editorial
Jan 05, 2019 rated it really liked it
This book was quite frankly bizarre but I thoroughly enjoyed it all the same. Ultimately a love story between two troubled, eccentric characters—it follows their unusual courtship. The narrative is interspersed with short stories that at first through me but I ended up enjoying immensely.
If you enjoy something a bit different from the norm I’d really recommend you give it a try. I will definitely read Nina Allan again.
Thanks to netgalley and the publisher for this copy in exchange for an honest
Marie (UK)
Mar 18, 2019 rated it did not like it
I received this as an ARC in exchange for an honest review.

I have to say that this book has no clear storyline. It messes around between a man's journey across devon - his stays in Wade and Exeter are detailed in excruciating detail - His letters from a fellow"doll" fan which originate in some sort of mental asylum and the totally incomprehensible fairy stories of the supposed Ewa Chaplin. I dont know what the author was trying to achieve but all she has managed is a soup of disparate parts.

Beth (bibliobeth)
Apr 03, 2019 rated it liked it
The whimsical nature of The Dollmaker was first brought to my attention during an event held by Quercus Books last year where they showcased some of the fiction they were excited to be publishing in 2019. The Dollmaker was one of these books and marketed in such a gorgeous display that not only was it immediately eye-catching but I was instantly intrigued to read the novel. Thank you so much to the publishers for providing me with a complimentary copy in exchange for an honest review.

From the ve
Victoria Sadler
Nov 14, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
The Dollmaker by Nina Allan is the oddest book I have read this year and, quite probably, of any year. Yet, because of this, it is unforgettable. This curious but fiercely original novel will stay with me for some time.

In it we follow Andrew and Bramber, two lonely individuals who have never met, but who quickly develop a love affair via letters as they become penpals following Bramber’s advert in a doll collectors’ magazine. Only it’s not just distance that make the burgeoning relationship of t
This novel was simply lovely, and very well-written, too.

I think Allan did something very daring here. She breaks up the bits of novel in which Andrew tells us how he is travelling to Cornwall to see Bramber Winters and the letters of Bramber with the occasional fairy tale. Andrew reads these fairy tales during his travels because they were written by an author Bramber adores, but soon, they start to bear some eerie similarities to his real life. Now, if you stop your novel to tell a fairy tale
Mar 13, 2019 rated it liked it
Dollmaker Andrew has engaged in a pen relationship with a woman called Bramber, who he suspects is trapped in a facility she needs rescuing from. Their shared love of dolls inspired Andrew and Bramber to write to one another, and through the letters, they have developed a strong relationship. Andrew believes he loves Bramber, and is so sure Bramber is the one for him, he decides to set off on a hundreds of miles journey to surprise Bramber. Along the way, he passes the journey by reading a book ...more
Apr 13, 2019 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Andrew Garvie has always had an infatuation with dolls. Now, all grown up, he is a collector and a dollmaker himself. Through a newspaper add, he has met Bramber Winters. And, letter by letter, he gets to know more about her strange life that has led to her being institutionalized. As their long-distance friendship grows, Andrew will decide to embark on a lonely journey in order to meet Bramber in person. When they finally meet, will they be able to break free of their pasts? Are they going to m ...more
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