Dave Mossman, the anti-hero of the book, is the Toy Man. A proud craftsman scraping a living making traditional toys, he has utter contempt for the modern child’s obsession with all things technological, particularly computer games. Dave is a complex character who indulges himself in the creative process of making toys, as he is supported financially by his wife Jenny. Jenny however would like him to create something real, a baby, as her biological clock is ticking. Dave is reluctant to oblige, at least for the time being, which puts huge tensions on their relationship. He knows that bringing up a child would force him into adult responsibilities and he would have to grow up and support his family through the mundane drudgery of a nine to five job.
The book explores a week in Dave’s life, his relationship with his customers, his best friend Phil and Jenny’s high achieving friends James & Patricia. How he connects with these characters affects his personality and impacts upon his strained relationship with his wife Jenny.
He has a brief but passionate affair with Olivia, a customer for one of his expensive, but beautifully constructed Doll’s houses. She is an attractive young girl who Dave idealises as a work of art, and while Dave is later consumed with guilt when the reality of his adultery strikes him, Olivia never gives it a second thought. Her own guilt arises out of her inability to reach reconciliation with her dying mother.
A parallel plot concerns Dave’s close friend Phil who is equally single-minded and idealistic and is either reluctant or unable to join the mainstream of society. Phil is an academic and he finds it hard to connect with the world in which he finds himself existing. In rare moments of self-motivation he is attempting to progress beyond writing the first chapter of a critical work on James Joyce’s ‘Ulysses’ – not unlike many people who have attempted to read the book. Following Dave’s confession about his brief affair to Phil, Phil sees the futility of his own existence, with tragic consequences.
Jenny’s attraction to the materialistic life-style of their friends, investment banker James and his pregnant wife Patricia surrounded by the ostentatious trappings of their affluence, is a source of intense irritation to Dave. So much so that Dave and James’ contrasting attitudes to life provoke a fierce row during a dinner party. Their disagreement comes to a head when Dave punches James. This act of barbarity, which is outside the bounds of Jenny’s concept of civilised polite society, heaps further strains on their fragile marriage. However, tragedy strikes when Patricia loses their precious baby showing the limits to the controlling power of money and influence and that even the best-regulated families are subjected to the frailty of the human condition.
To sum up: “The Toy Man” deals sensitively with a complex interaction between creativity and loss. Amongst the many fascinating conflicts arising out of the book, are those between tradition and new technology, idealism and convention and particularly the desire to prolong childhood. A wish that is frustrated by the pressures society puts upon us all to ‘grow up’ and put away our toys.
” Funny, sad and enthralling”
Five Star Review on Amazon By Ali Smith
I loved this book. I was drawn in by the cover initially and, as an avid reader with an eclectic taste in books, bought in on impulse.
It is a very honest story, no frills and quite gritty in parts, with central characters who really do walk off the pages fully formed, and who are extremely believable as characters. The plot is very steady and has a couple of very nice (and very unexpected) twists.
It takes a wry look at life, love, angst, passion, death and biological clocks! And all this without becoming pretentious – or silly.
As the tale of Dave Mossman the toymaker unfolds over a period of one week, I found it hard to put the book down, and I think you will too.
About the Author
Wannabee writer who is constantly disturbed out of his imagination by real life.