Like previous reviewers, I too read this as a child, and the name Marchpane still sends shivers down my spine! I bought a copy recently for my 8 year old daughter, and now she's fallen in love with it too. Be warned, though, it's a bit of a tear jerker. As you get towards the final chapters, you might want to schedule a half hour or so to console your child afterwards!
First published shortly after the second World War, The Dolls' House is a beautifully-written tale about Tottie Plantaganet, a small Dutch doll 'made a long time ago', and the other members of the Plantaganet 'family': Mr Plantaganet, who was cruelly abused by his previous owners, his wife Birdie, who isn't quite 'right in the head', and their mischievous son, Apple, with his darning-wool hair. Darner, the dog, has a darning needle backbone that makes him awkward to handle. More awkward for modern day parents is the fact that Darner says 'Prick' whenever danger is present... Old-fashioned terms such as 'rickrack braid', meanwhile, provide a more innocent reminder of just how ancient this book is. But, conversely, that's part of its charm. This particular edition is riddled with typos, but Godden's text shows enormous attention to detail. Words are lovingly chosen, and sentences beautifully crafted with an elegance that's rare in children's literature today. My daughter loved the slightly archaic nature of it, all the unfamiliar words like 'stay-bones' and 'quilling'. It's a joy to read aloud as well.
I think one element that children particularly relate to is the fact that the dolls can't 'do', they can only be 'done by'; equally they can't choose, but can only 'be chosen'. Children, who get to make so few decisions themselves, can't help but relate to them. And the portrait of a post-war childhood (or dollhood perhaps!) is strangely fascinating for today's kids, reared on a diet of TV and video games. Ideal for little girls... and grown-up ones as well!