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.
... exquisite and strange ... a postmodern fairy tale, both whimsical and aching in its appeal ... Every careful step the story takes is magic ... Whether read as a romance, a fairy tale, a lament, or combinations of the three: The Dollmaker is a bewitching story.
This literary experiment has a conventional setting, in a contemporary England that feels only slightly askew. Its living dolls are kept within safely figurative bounds, avatars of the exotic in a moving fable of otherness, but they are every bit as unsettling as tradition requires ... Its imaginative energy unfolds unexpectedly from within, as if from a series of opulent music boxes ... purports to be 'a love story about becoming real', and perhaps it is, in its sad and mischievous way. But it is a story, too, about becoming unreal, about what we choose to see, even in dolls, when we ourselves have gone for too long unseen. Who will love us, after all, if not people just like us?
The pace is thoughtful and measured, moving much more smoothly once you become used to the different narratives, building to an ending that is atmospheric but doesn’t seem to provide definitive answers for the questions posed. But whilst some may struggle with its slow start or its ambiguity of its ending, for those who can get past this they’ll find The Dollmaker is a book that lingers on in the mind long after finishing it, much like the tales of Chaplin herself.