The Dollmaker of Krakow took me completely by surprise. I was already hooked after the first few chapters. The story begins in The Land of the Dolls where Karolina is happily living her life as a seamstress until the day the rats invade. One day she is transported to our world by the kind wind and wakes up in The Dollmaker’s shop in Krakow. The Dollmaker is a lonely WWI veteran, who struggles with the pain of losing his parents. But the appearance of Karolina in his life sets a series of fortunate events in motion. The fog he’s been living in starts to lift as he meets a welcoming Jewish family of two, who makes him feel wanted and appreciated. The story follows The Dollmaker and Karolina’s battle to help their Jewish friends during the German occupation of Poland.
Comes out September 26th.
I am in love with this story. It’s about empathy towards other people, and the strength to stay true to your humanity regardless of the consequences. While it’s set in a time of war in our world, there are many magical elements. The main character, Karolina, is a living doll, and throughout the story we meet several different magical entities from Polish folklore. The presence of magic presents a different approach to historical fiction. As we learn in the beginning of the book, The Land of the Dolls has been invaded by rats, who terrorises the dolls and destroys everything in their path. There is a clear parallel between The Land of the Dolls and our world during WWII where the majority of the book takes place.
Magic can’t fix anything just by existing, but it can be used as a tool to do good. The story focuses on the fact that it’s better to help in whatever way you can than do nothing, about not giving into fear and hatred. It’s about selflessness, sacrifice and resilience. A deeply emotional and moving story of love and determination to protect the ones you love, and defying conformity. Never giving in and standing up to oppression on a personal scale.
I had very few problems with the books, one of them though was the descriptions of animal cruelty. I’m very sensitive to such topics, but thankfully those incidents were resolved within a few paragraphs. Despite my sensitivity, I would not change those scenes as it adds to the portrayal of the overwhelming hate that fuelled WWII. But it is worth mentioning in case it is a trigger for some people.
The story explores the importance of kindness and inclusiveness. But in someway it also sneaks a peak at the complexity and mess of war. There are a few of the youngest German soldiers who show signs of fear, even fear of The Dollmaker. My grandmother was a young child during the war, she sometimes saw young soldiers weeping quietly when they thought no one was watching. They were scared, they were human. But war has a way of corrupting the souls of the young. At one point during the destruction of symbolic hope, Karolina can’t help noticing that the soldiers are acting like children, which makes her wonder how boys can be so cruel.
The Dollmaker of Krakow had be sobbing at the end. I gave my heart to the characters, and I let it break into a million pieces. And I’m not even the least bit mad about it. There was especially one sentence that broke me, I won’t share it since it’s a big spoiler, but it tore my heart out. It’s a beautiful story that will stay with me for a long time.
*I received an arc via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review*