The Magic Toyshop by Angela Carter
“This crazy world whirled around her, men and women dwarfed by toys and puppets, where even the birds are mechanical and the few human figures went masked… She was in the night once again, and the doll was herself.’
Melanie walks in the midnight garden, wearing her mother’s wedding dress; naked she climbs the apple tree in the black of the moon. Omens of disaster, swiftly following, transport Melanie from rural comfort to London, to the Magic Toyshop.
To the red-haired, dancing Finn, the gentle Francie, dumb Aunt Margaret and Uncle Phillip. Francie plays curious night music, Finn kisses fifteen-year-old Melanie in the mysterious ruins of the pleasure gardens. Brooding over all is Uncle Philip: Uncle Philip, with blank eyes the colour of wet newspaper, making puppets the size of men, and clockwork roses. He loves his magic puppets, but hates the love of man for woman, boy for girl, brother for sister…”
I shall be careful not to give away too much. If you do decide to read any of the ‘reviewed’ books I wouldn’t want to spoil the ending for you, or give away any other major plot twists, so I’ll try to be as vague as possible. However, these won’t be completely spoiler free so if that bugs you stop reading here.
What I thought:
I was browsing my library for a new book to read and the title of this one caught my eye. Magic, you say? Toyshop, you say? It doesn’t take much to have my full attention, and this was more than enough!
Now, I admit, I was tempted to put it away again and move on to something else a couple of times. I’m also glad that I did decide to stick with it, because the second half was so much better than the first and made it very worthwhile!
The Magic Toyshop is about a teenage girl, Melanie, who can’t wait to grow up, be an adult, have sex and be a beautiful woman with a wonderful husband and perfect children. When her parents go away on a short business trip and don’t return, her wish suddenly becomes partly true – still no sex or husband or children, but she has to grow up very quickly in her new environment. Together with her younger brother and baby sister, Melanie goes to live with her uncle, his wife and her siblings. Unlike her loving mother, her uncle is a violent man who only loves his business and his hand-made dolls, which he creates and cares for religiously. Life in his small, cramped house is very different to everything she was used to and has come to take for granted, but when his angry outbursts start to involve her – specifically, her in his own version of Swan Lake – things go south very, very rapidly.
This is a story about a girl who has lived a privileged life until her parents die, and who suddenly has to adjust to very different living circumstances. Throughout the book she not only grows up but she also comes to appreciate the good things in life, she learns about herself, what it means to be human in her time, and she learns to fall in love against her will. As I said, during the first half I wanted to put The Magic Toyshop down and move on to something else, but something told me to keep reading. The second half was very worth the wait (and who knows? you might really enjoy the first half, or maybe it’d be the other way around for you) and the ending was more than unexpected! You could say things really blew up at the end… But you’ll see 🙂
I love any story which leaves me with questions, but I wish that there had been some more clarity at the end. What happened to her Aunt and her baby sister? Where was her brother, Jonathon? Is the dog okay? This isn’t a criticism, however. Melanie couldn’t have known these things and it ends on a hopeful note, so it actually ended perfectly. I felt for her at the end, and wanted her to be all right. Angela Carter made me care about Melanie’s well-being, and has managed to surprise me, so I can happily recommend this!
This was very worth a read, especially for the unexpected ending. We all love one of those, right? Well, trust me, you won’t see this one coming!
I don’t review books professionally, neither do I get paid for it. These reviews are mainly a small summary and my opinion on books I’ve loved, they are not intended to be anything more. All ‘reviews’ include a picture, title and name of author linking to the book’s Amazon listing, the blurb from the back of the book and my non-professional verdict.
For all other book reviews, please take a look here.