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The Dollmaker (Vintage Classics) by [Arnow, Harriette]
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The Dollmaker (Vintage Classics) 1st , Kindle Edition

4.6 out of 5 stars 5 customer reviews

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Product description


"A masterwork...A superb book of unforgettable strength and glowing richness" (New York Times)

"A book of biblical intensity... With vivid insights into racial, religious and labour tensions, this is a terrifying lesson in US history – and a haunting tragedy" (Guardian)

"An extraordinary novel, one that burns ferociously with the great twinned fires of country and city that constitute America. Its opening pages are among the most striking I’ve read in recent years but so are its last. May this hard, beautiful story find the many new readers it deserves" (Laird Hunt)

"It is a legitimate tragedy, our most unpretentious American masterpiece" (Joyce Carol Oates)

"The depth and power and stature of this enormous book are rare indeed in modern fiction" (New York Times)

Book Description

An unknown American novel that deserves to be read. An epic masterpiece about an uneducated, rural woman who happens to be an artist - a sculptor of beautiful handmade dolls

Product details

  • Format: Kindle Edition
  • File Size: 3165 KB
  • Print Length: 624 pages
  • Publisher: Vintage Digital; 01 edition (2 Mar. 2017)
  • Sold by: Amazon Media EU S.à r.l.
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B01GH07CKW
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
  • X-Ray:
  • Word Wise: Enabled
  • Screen Reader: Supported
  • Enhanced Typesetting: Enabled
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars 5 customer reviews
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #75,810 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Customer reviews

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Format: Kindle Edition
I know it's still only the very beginning of March, but I feel certain The Dollmaker will turn out to be my Book Of The Month. I wouldn't be surprised if it turned out to be my Book Of The Year too. It's that amazing! I was completely immersed in every page of Arnow's writing and it is rare that a book grips me to this extent throughout, especially one of over 600 pages. I don't understand why Harriette Arnow isn't world famous. Literature of this standard is absolutely a classic and I am grateful to Vintage Classics for their reprinting. I might never have found The Dollmaker otherwise.

I do perhaps need to divulge at this point that, despite my enthusiasm, The Dollmaker is not a happy book. There are certainly joyful moments, but if you like your fiction to be uplifting then this probably wouldn't be your best choice. If, on the other hand, you enjoy thought-provoking social commentary, richly detailed scenes and events, and superbly observed and portrayed characters, I would urge you to give this novel a try. I spent two days, pretty much unable to set the book aside, with Gertie and her family feeling her hope, fury and despair, and understanding how she could set aside a brief glimpse of paradise for a very literal interpretation of hell. I am sure The Dollmaker will remain in my thoughts for weeks and possibly months to come. Discovering a book of this quality is why I love reading and I will be eagerly recommending to every reader I know!
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Format: Paperback
There are books that you read that you think are good, then there are ones that you think are brilliant, but on top of that there is another category: masterpiece. The Dollmaker is an absolute masterpiece.

If the first chapter of this book doesn’t get your interest nothing will. Gertie Nevels is riding her mule down the hills of kentucky to try to get emergency treatment for her sick son. we get a real taste for Gertie in this chapter, her strength and determination shines through.

Gertie and her family live in rural Appalachia. It is Gertie’s dream to own her own place and for her and her family to live off the land. But these are the dark days of WWII and the men are being taken away. The ones that aren’t conscripted are sent to Detroit to work for the industrial war machine. just when it seems that Gertie’s dream will come true; fate intervenes.

Taking all the children, she follows her husband to Detroit where life could not be more different or difficult. Living in a project scheme for workers at the factories there is no space, no privacy, nothing except grinding poverty.

Life for the family from here onwards is about making adjustments, but Gertie and her son, Reuben, find it the most difficult. When Gertie goes to meet the children’s teachers she is told in no uncertain terms that the problems Reuben has is because of his lack of adjustment, his refusal to fit in. Gertie’s retort to the obnoxious teacher is brilliant…

“but he cain’t help the way he’s made. It’s a lot more trouble to roll out steel-and make it like you want it-than it is biscuit dough.”

But Reuben’s failure to fit in, to find any kind of life for himself brings about one of Gertie’s many upheavals.

Gertie is such a brilliant character.
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Format: Paperback
Gertie Nevels, married to Clovis and mother to five children, lives in the countryside around Ballew, Kentucky. They move from farm to farm when crops need sowing or reaping. She loves the life but hates the uncertainty that this lifestyle brings. She has been saving every dime possible so that she can buy a farm that has recently come onto the market. In fact, she’s already paid the money for the farm. Unfortunately, this takes place in the middle of WW2 and Clovis has left for Detroit to work in one of the factories making goods for the war. Gertie is shamed into asking for her money to be returned by her God-fearing mother who makes her give up this dream and move to Detroit with the children to join her husband.

I can understand why this book is an American classic and why Vintage Press have republished it. Harriette Amow has written the story in the language of those who others would have referred to as “Hillbillies”. I found it difficult at first to read it in this format, but am pleased I persevered because the power of the language used, creates a very powerful story.

Gertie is a tall, awkward woman, with her only education being gained from the bible. However, dig deeper and you find that this woman has been somewhat brainwashed (by her mother) into thinking that the bible is the only book worth reading and that life must be lived by obeying its teachings. Behind this we find out that Gertie is a creator of beauty by turning a chunk of wood into something beautiful. She had learnt how to whittle wood by watching her father - a man who can’t stand up to his wife’s overbearing character and finds solace in slipping off to his barn where he can find peace creating something out of a piece of wood.
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Format: Kindle Edition
Gertie is a commendable, resourceful, talented character who tries to keep things ticking over and make the best of things despite her dire circumstances. I found the book rather slow moving, long winded and rambling in places. Even though it added authenticity I struggled with the dialogue. It's poignant and depressing but that's how it was in those dark days. Thank you to Vintage Classics and NetGalley for letting me read it.
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