cover image The Dollmaker

The Dollmaker

Nina Allan. Other, $16.99 trade paper (416p) ISBN 978-1-59051-993-6

Allan (The Rift) uses a complex structure for her unsettling novel of two outsiders bonding over doll making. Andrew Garvie, a short-statured maker of antique-style dolls, answers a personal ad, placed in a trade journal, by Bramber Winters. Bramber, a voluntary resident of a mental institution for 20 years, claims to be seeking help in researching the dolls of Polish author and doll maker Ewa Chaplin. Andrew decides to travel from London to the tiny Cornish town of Bodmin on a surprise visit to, in his mind, rescue Bramber. As he travels, he reflects on his life and reads the stories of Chaplin. These dark modern fairy tales (included in full inside the book) of scheming dwarves, changelings, and disturbing children bear striking, troubling resemblance to Andrew’s own life. In between the stories, Andrew’s visits to small towns en route to Bodmin, and his revelations of his own painful past of isolation and sexual maltreatment, readers see Bramber’s earlier letters, which slowly recount the trauma that led to her retreat from society. Shortly before arriving, Andrew makes an impulsive choice that ties him closer to the eerie elements from Chaplin’s stories. Allan’s characters hide their intense sentiments behind calm exteriors and the overlapping story lines pleasantly delay answers to mysteries. This uncanny novel of longed-for connection is worth the effort. [em](Oct.) [/em]