The Magic Toyshop
by Angela Carter
This book was not what I had imagined, having read two previous works by Carter, but it was equally wonderful and has cemented her as one of the great authors for me.
The title had suggested to me something a bit fantastical, which aligned with my experience of Carter (I’d previously read Nights at the Circus and The Infernal Desire Machines of Doctor Hoffman) but – on the surface, at least – this book stays within the realm of reality. And yet from the very first page, there is an air of dark fantasy pervading the background.
The story centres on 15-year-old Melanie. She and her two younger siblings have to move from the middle-class comforts of their country home to live in relative poverty with their Uncle Philip in London. He is a toymaker but in every way defies the expectations of that label – he is tall, broad, strong, dark and frequently violent. He shows no kindness or empathy for the uprooted children.
“His silence had bulk, a height and a weight. It reached from here to the sky. It filled the room. He was heavy as Saturn. She ate at the same table as this elemental silence which could crush you to nothing.”