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The Dollmaker

Hardcover / ISBN-13: 9781787472556

Price: £14.99

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‘A fantastic book’ Andrew O’Hagan
‘Wholly original – worthy of a modern Grimm’ Andrew Caldecott, author of Rotherweird
‘A masterful and multi-layered haunted toyshop of a novel’ Tony White, author of The Fountain in the Forest

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 terrible events that put her there as a child. Andrew knows what it is to be trapped; and as they knit closer together, he weaves a curious plan to rescue her.

On his journey through the old towns of England he reads the fairytales of Ewa Chaplin – potent, eldritch stories which, like her lifelike dolls, pluck at the edges of reality and thread their way into his mind. When Andrew and Bramber meet at last, they will have a choice – to remain alone with their painful pasts or break free and, unlike their dolls, come to life.

A love story of two very real, unusual people, The Dollmaker is also a novel rich with wonders: Andrew’s quest and Bramber’s letters unspool around the dark fables that give our familiar world an uncanny edge. It is this touch of magic that, like the blink of a doll’s eyes, tricks our own . . .


Her literary sensibility fuses the fantastic and the mundane to great effect
In clean, beautiful, agile prose, Nina Allan is able to conjure a recognisable England and a place of deep enchantment. The world of The Dollmaker is not only one we know, it seems to know us, and readers will lose and find themselves inside Allan's wonderful creation. A fantastic book, revealing a zone of wonder and a world of truth.
Andrew O'Hagan, author of The Illuminations
Amazing experiments are still possible with the form of the novel! I was deeply impressed by the complexity of this elegant, beautiful and subtly scary book.
Daniel Kehlmann, author of Measuring the World
As uncanny and disquieting as a Hans Bellmer photograph, yet rooted - like all of Nina Allan's superb novels - in a minutely observed everyday reality that feels almost too familiar. This is a masterful and multi-layered haunted toyshop of a novel, but who exactly is playing with who?
Tony White, author of The Fountain in the Forest
Two unusual people with a very real love story. A uniquely beautiful read
Image Magazine
Mesmerising, richly layered and wholly original - worthy of a modern Grimm
Andrew Caldecott, author of Rotherweird
Mesmerising, richly layered and wholly original - worthy of a modern Grimm
Andrew Caldecott, author of Rotherweird
Beautifully written and deeply strange . . . Allan writes about neglect and transgression very well . . . Wonderfully taut
Leaf Arbuthnot, Sunday Times
Haunting and beautifully written, the plot unfolds as a story within a story.
Candis Magazine
Sometimes, all you can really do is applaud . . . So achingly clever and well constructed it's a bit like a magic trick. A dazzling little puzzle box of a novel, one that interleaves multiple voices, moods and genres. Intricate, measured and subtly creepy, this is the sort of book that invites you to find your own path, and decide for yourself just what the story is.
Nic Clarke, SFX
This is a very singular book indeed, one punctuated by dark, strikingly densely imagined fairytales, which share disturbing parallels with Andrew's own life. Blurred boundaries are, in part, what this unsettling, intricately constructed and teasingly elliptical tale of misfits, outcasts and outsiders is about . . . The award-winning sci-fi writer's talents are evident
Stephanie Cross, Daily Mail
There's something wonderful about taking a step into an uncertain world. Especially when you're in the hands of someone as capable as Nina Allan . . . There's more than a touch of Angela Carter to it . . . It's really rather magical . . . It's the two characters at The Dollmaker's centre that makes it such a compelling read. Allan offers the narrative skill we've come to expect, accompanied by a real tenderness and heart
Jonathan Hatfull, SciFi Now
An unusual love story full of magic
Good Housekeeping
A compulsively unsettling story and hypnotic prose make this a must read
Literature Works
The Dollmaker is the sort of novel that speaks to the power of fiction and the possibilities it contains: I couldn't shake the thought that my imagination was playing an active role in shaping the narrative. I won't read a better book this year. Every character is beautifully drawn and every moment feels both authentic and magical; this novel is an enchanted castle of stories upon stories, a dizzying labyrinth. I wanted to go on reading it, and living in its world, forever.
Blair, Goodreads
A moving fable of otherness . . . Fittingly, given its subject, The Dollmaker toys with us almost from the start. . . . Its imaginative energy unfolds unexpectedly from within, as if from a series of opulent music boxes . . . The stories are modern fairytales, in the macabre and claustrophobic tradition of Angela Carter, and richly veined with myth and folklore . . . It is a story 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?
Paraic O'Donnell, Guardian
This is a most unusual novel, both weird and wonderful. I loved it.
Neil Armstrong, Mail on Sunday
From her literary toy box, Allan conjures the scary, the surreal and the ordinary in a work of dazzling originality.
Rose Shepard, Saga
This tale of mystery, literary allusion and authorial trickery is a thoroughly entertaining examination of the relationship between creativity, meaning and morality
Best Books of 2019, Morning Star
Incredible storytelling and various styles of prose woven into the novel with spooky relevance. The short stories/fairytales within the book would make a great collection alone but within the rest of the narrative, make this a really memorable book. Highly recommend.