Review: The Dollmaker

The Dollmaker
The Dollmaker by Harriette Simpson Arnow
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Book supplied by Netgalley for an honest review.

Harriette Arnow’s The Dollmaker, first published in 1954, was set during the last months of the second world war. With the current rise of economic migration, this story about the clash of cultures is as relevant now as it was seven decades ago. The Nevels, ‘hillbillies’ from rural Kentucky, struggle to ‘adapt’ and make sense of the industrial and cultural tensions of Detroit’s projects that exploded to cope with the war production.

The writing, though often wordy, is heartfelt. Phonetically spelt dialogue, and the sensitive well-formed cast of characters draw you in; their struggles are felt, their journeys are personal.

Like Steinbeck’s Grapes of Wrath, the Dollmaker immerses the reader in the minutiae of living under conflict, under poverty, and the fear of whatever the future may be bring. This is a long book, over 600 pages in printed editions, and by the end you understand and sympathise with all the characters, even those you despise.

Hopefully one day the Dollmaker will be recognised for the classic that it is.

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