“A secret has been revealed, and I finally understand the meaning of toys, something my papa learnt long before me. When you are young, what you want out of toys is to feel grown up. You play with toys and cast yourself an adult, and imagine life the way it’s going to be.”
Yet, when you are grown, that changes; now, what you want out of toys is to feel young again. You want to be back there, in a place that did not hurt or harm you, in a pocket of time built out of memory and love. You want things in miniature, where they can be better understood: battles and houses, picnic baskets and sailing boats too.
Boyhood and adulthood – any toy maker worth his craft has to find a place to sit , somewhere between the two. It’s only in these borderlands that the very best toys are made.”
The Toymakers, a novel by Robert Dinsdale (Penguin, 2018), p. 256/7
My current reading – half way through – is The Toymakers, a fantasy / magic realism book set in a magical winter toy shop in Edwardian London up to and into the First World War.
The book blurb aims for the Harry Potter market – “If There were a toy shop on Diagon Alley it would be the Toymakers” – and I can imagine the film makers who made the Harry Potter and Fantastic Beasts movies would enjoy recreating this world in CGI.
Here in the Emporium, a refugee European Toymaker Papa Jack and his two sons Emil and Kaspar Godman compete in both love and Toys, including “The Long War” fought between brothers through their alive (clockwork?) handmade toy soldiers.
The realism part of the magic realism steps up a pace when the First World War breaks out, Emporium staff join up, white feathers are handed out and at first, toy soldiers became the patriotic gift to give to small boys.
But what would happen as the war ground on? I often feel this looking at this WW1 era magazine scrap in my eclectic and chaotic collection
We all know what happened in reality to William Britain’s toy soldiers and their post war shift to more civilian Toys like farms, Wild West, gardens and railway figures.
Set at a time when H.G. Wells was writing Floor Games and Little Wars, those charming touchstones or portkeys to a vanished toy past, I would not be surprised if Mr. H.G. Wells turns up …
Links to the Penguin books site featuring and extract and an interview with the author on the magic of toys and how the book came to be written.
and some reader reviews.
I will post a fuller review when I have finished reading both this and rereading of Pauline Clarke’s 1960s book, the Bronte toy soldier inspired The Return of The Twelves.
And now for some simple wooden Christmas magic …
Blogposted by Mark Man of TIN 6 January 2019.