The Toymaker by Liam Pieper
Review copy provided by publisher
Penguin Random House, June 2016
Synopsis- Adam Kulakov likes his life. He’s on the right side of middle age; the toy company he owns brightens the lives of children around the world; and he has more money than he can ever spend, a wife and child he adores, and as many mistresses as he can reasonably hide from them.
And he is not the only one with secrets. In 1944, Adam’s grandfather, Arkady, was imprisoned in Auschwitz and given an impossible choice. Now, as he’s coming to the end of his life, he has to keep the truth from his family, and hold back the crushing memories of his time with one of history’s greatest monsters.
As a mistake threatens to bring Adam’s world tumbling down around him, the past reaches for Arkady. Everything he’s spent a lifetime building will be threatened, as will everything Adam and his family think they know of the world.
Bold, dark and compelling, The Toymaker is a novel about privilege, fear and the great harm we can do when we are afraid of losing what we hold dear.
Review- I read The Toymaker more than a month ago, so I’ll make this review short and sweet! This novel probably isn’t something I would typically read or be drawn to, but it was sent to me for review and I was reluctant to put it in the reject book pile because: 1/ lots of people had been talking about it and I’d seen it in bookshelves everywhere 2/ it was authored by an Australian 3/ it was set in two time periods- Nazi Germany and present day Melbourne. 4/ It’s a relatively short novel at <300 pages.
So, my curiosity was piqued and I thought I’d give it a go. I’m still not entirely sure what I think of the book, but I did feel the pull to keep reading and I did finish it. What did I like? Firstly, the take on Nazi Germany was compelling and very unique. It follows Auschwitz prisoner Arkady who works alongside a Nazi German engaging in the most shocking and cruel medical experiments you can think of. I have no idea if there is truth in this storyline but it was definitely an interesting take on the war that I hadn’t read about before. The story alternates between the viewpoint of Arkady in 1944 and then switches to present day in the viewpoint of his grandson and Toy Entrepreneur Adam and his wife Tess. Arkady was by far the most interesting character and I found him to be the most likeable. Unfortunately I didn’t really like Adam and though I admired Tess’s strength, her character wasn’t fully formed in the story.
The novel begins with a really good hook, where Adam is caught in an indiscretion, but from there the pace really slowed down. Just when I was wondering where the story was heading it took a big turn at the end. It was completely unexpected. It was a clever twist and I liked that I was surprised. That doesn’t happen very often when I’m reading these days! However, the one character I had warmed to was unravelled and I was left feeling a little confused about the whole book. In the end I didn’t like anyone!
So i guess i haven’t managed to keep this review very short after all. Though i didn’t enjoy The Toymaker as much as I’d hoped, the story thread about Nazi Germany was definitely compelling and fascinating for me. I’d still recommend this book to people who like to read books set in that time period.
The Toymaker can be purchased from Fishpond and other leading book retailers