by Robert Dinsdale
This is a story about a magical toyshop in the heart of Mayfair, just at the beginning of WWI. A young girl, Cathy, is pregnant and not at all happy with her parent's plans to send her to a 'home' where her baby will be sold to adoptive parents and she can try to pick up the threads of her life in shame.
An employment advert comes to her attention and she decides to take control of her destiny and forge another way forward.
From the start it is clear that the toyshop is out of the ordinary. I found myself quickly getting into the childlike sense of wonder that this magical place attracts and enjoyed watching Cathy learn to fit in with the other residents and toy makers.
It isn't all magic and joy though. The real world encroaches on the magical world of the toyshop, especially when the Great War breaks out. By then we've already learned the far too real history of Papa Jack, who started the toy shop with his two sons. The contrast of the magical world within the real world makes for a good story and kept me interested all the way through.
There is everything from sibling rivalry to magical animals that come alive, war time prejudices contrasted with paper trees that grow and develop living paper mache wildlife, war time correspondence and through it all the perspective of a child discovering everything for the first time.
It's not all happy, but the twist at the end makes the journey worthwhile. Well defined characters and a very unpredictable plot along with good writing make this one of the best books I've read this year!