The Toy Maker, written by the usually very funny Liam Pieper, is the first book I think I have read which incorporates Nazi Germany and the holocaust into it. Liam Pieper has entertained me before with his humorous stories of dysfunction, drug use and general adolescent/young adulthood stories. His branch into a serious novel is amazing. The Toy Maker focuses on an Australian family in the toy making business – led by Arkady Kulakov – a holocaust survivor who came to Australia and made his millions by hand crafting toys that he had learnt to make in Auschwitz.
The book moves between snippets of Auschwitz and Arkady’s survival, and the present day where he is aging, and his grandson and his wife have taken over the toy making business. The intertwining of these stories is done beautifully – the haunting, grotesque, sad and barbaric stories of Auschwitz are woven into the current world and the beautiful relationship between Arkady and his grand-daughter-in-law. As the history of Nazi Germany is contrasted with the modern day of relationship breakdown, affairs and capitalist survival unfold, so many sad, sad secrets are let out.
Liam Pieper has surprised me with this ability to write such a beautiful, yet horrific story. Arkady is an amazing, strong character, who holds the family together and makes other people question their motives and integrity. His grandson, Adam needs to question these things, as his long suffering wife, Tess, manages the company, family, aging Arkady and her husband’s pitfalls. The twists and turns in the book, are subtle at times and show how complex we are, how our past shapes our future, and that choices we make will come back to haunt us at the end. Such a good read.