â The Dollmaker å Download by Í Harriette Arnow I rated this a 5 because I read it at least 15 years ago it still remains one of my favorite books A TV movie was made in the 80 s based on it Jane Fonda starred did not come close to doing the book justice An Appalachian woman, along with her husband and children, moves to Detroit where the family hopes to find a better life The setting is just after WWII when industry was in full swing Main character carves wooden dolls, thus the title Book is about leaving home , culture shock, relationships Have recommended to book groups always get positive feedback Copyright 1960 s.
One of my favorite novels.
This book still haunts me For regional writers a fine use of dialect, without creating or living up to stereotypical renderings of characters from Appalachia.
For students of American literature a rich, meaty example of the literary movement of natural determinism, ala Ellen Glasgow.
For those with Appalachian roots It ll make you miss yer kin somethin fierce.
Strong Willed, Self Reliant Gertie Nevels S Peaceful Life In The Kentucky Hills Is Devastated By The Brutal Winds Of Change Uprooted From Her Backwoods Home, She And Her Family Are Thrust Into The Confusion And Chaos Of Wartime Detroit And In A Pitiless World Of Unendurable Poverty, Gertie Will Battle Fiercely And Relentlessly To Protect Those Things She Holds Most Dear Her Children, Her Heritage And Her Triumphant Ability To Create Beauty In The Suffocating Shadow Of Ugliness And Despair The Dollmaker is the story of Gertie Nevels, a Kentucky woman who is uprooted from the home that she loves and forced to live in Detroit during the Second World War It is a tragedy that springs from the loss of agrarian life to industrial labor, the misunderstands and lack of communications between spouses, and the burying of the artistic spirit and individuality beneath the struggle to simply exist.
There are dozens of ideas in this book that could be discussed and debated at length, but what kept coming to the fore for me was the way one life, one person, can be smothered in the crowd of humanity, and how much humanity itself suffers for this every time it happens Life in Detroit is a nightmare for Gertie, but not only for Gertie the alley she lives in is peopled with lives being beaten down and wasted The factions that divide these people are much less obvious to the reader than the squalid ties that bind them The contrast between the deprivations of the farm life that begins the novel and the deprivations of the life Gertie finds in Detroit are stark, and while Kentucky is not paradise, it would appear to be when weighed against Detroit.
There is also the religious element that runs through the book Religious in the broadest sense of the word For Gertie is searching for God, for Christ, and even for Judas She looks to understand her fate and whether her choices are truly her own or ordained by some higher power Indeed, there are times when I wondered where God is in the lives of so many helpless and vulnerable people As is usually the case, the people who most profess to speak in His name are the least like Him.
My heart was broken so many times during the reading of this novel that it felt sometimes as if there were an iron band squeezing it It is in excess of 600 pages and I strongly feel that not a word is wasted Right into the Favorites folder with this one, with my only complaint being that the print in the version I was reading was insufferably small for these old eyes I suppose I will need to be on the lookout for a copy with larger print, since I can easily see the need to read it again someday.
This book was depressing, didactic, full of despair and in parts, disturbingly graphic and this review is brought to you by the letter D That said, it was an amazing book and I can t believe I made it to this advanced age without reading it A Kentucky farmwoman and her children reluctantly follow her husband to Detroit during WWII, where he works at one of the auto factories for the war effort No kidding, these people can outJoad the Joads any day of the week, and twice on Sundays Everything about the rural experience is good, and everything about the urban experience is poisonous Plus, all the dialogue is written out in Kentucky hill dialect I am sure my encouraging description is making people want to read this, but seriously, it was one of those books that I couldn t put down By rights, it should be too heavy handed to enjoy, but the writing was breathtaking and it really succeeds in making you feel like you are right there, suffering through Detroit winters and lock outs and war department telegrams and debt and agony.
Grade A Recommended To people who might enjoy wallowing in a dismal family saga, people who like lots of domestic detail about homefront experiences, and especially to anyone interested in the rural emigration sparked by WWII, which I always feel you don t hear nearly enough about Reconstruction and the Depression hog all the rural exodus stuff, I think.
My Appalachian Writers professor mentioned that she knew of a few colleagues who were forming a club for people who could only read The Dollmaker once I might be in that club This book is long, but so rich and so well written that I would love to read it again, especially from a spiritual biblical perspective On the other hand, there is such tragedy that this book takes an emotional commitment, one I can t imagine allowing myself to make again any time soon This book is bigger than its genre and I would hate for someone to miss it because they don t appreciate Appalachian literature.
I read this book when I was 10 or 11 and cried all the way through it I was mad at my mother for letting me read it because it was so sad, but later in life realized this book helped to shape me into the person I became I have looked for this book off and on over the last 40 plus years and am very glad to see it is still in print and people are reading it This truly was one of the best lessons about life my mother taught me.
This was a book I read in college over 30 years ago and I still remember it It was well written, but you may need to take anti depressants after you are done.

If I were the God of books, then I would create a Book Hell, to which I would consign all the worst, most evil characters, who had caused pain and suffering and altered fates to the good characters by their actions And Gertie Nevels mother would be the first one there, just so she could burn the longest And yes, as is so often the case, religion and bible quotations were the catalysts This is a long and involved novel, so I won t go into plot details, but Gertie and her five children must leave Kentucky to join her husband in Detroit after Uncle Sam rejects him for WWII, and he goes there to work as a machinist This is a 600 page novel, so a plot recounting would be too long and involved, but I will say that my heart was ripped apart several times before the end Gertie Nevels loves her husband and children, but than anything wants to go home Her husband Clovis loves his wife and children and believes that his responsibility is to provide for his family The children adapt with varying degrees of success to overcrowded , noisy living conditions in what is essentially a slum I came to know every member of the family intimately, their dreams and fears and disappointments I also came to know and respect the other women in the alley, and love their small kindnesses to each other in times of trouble The need for just a little piece of beauty in their lives was heart rending, having to settle for the innocence of a newborn baby s expression, lilacs that bloomed in the spring, or flower seeds planted in yards that would be trampled by children playing As one character says, we ve all got holes, and they all gotta be stuffed with something liquor, like poor Sophronie, or religion and liquor it takes em both for Daly, or phenobarbital, like somebody Mrs Anderson knows Other than the family, there were two very special characters here, both of them peripheral Cassie s imaginary friend Callie Lou has a major role in events, and Wheateye, a wild child neighbor girl, made me smile every time she came on the scene.
One thing this review feels inadequate to convey my love for this book, so I ll leave you with this quotation from the afterward by Joyce Carol Oates It is a legitimate tragedy, our most unpretentious American masterpiece.
6 My response to this devastating work of literary art was no different to how I felt upon closing the pages of a John Steinbeck or Wallace Stegner It will forever remain in my heart and soul and earns a place on my virtual 6 stars shelf.