When I was a little girl, I had a dolls’ house. It was made of painted metal, nothing fancy, and although it had little plastic furniture, I don’t remember any dolls that might have come with it. I loved it, though, and with my own collection of dolls spent hours and hours lost in imagination.
Rumer Godden wrote some wonderful novels for children. I just read her book, The Dolls’ House, and, yes, I would have loved it as a child! And I would especially have loved the edition illustrated by Tasha Tudor!
The story is of the dolls who “live in the nursery of two little girls called Emily and Charlotte Dane.” The oldest doll, Tottie, once belonged to Emily and Charlotte’s great-grandmother and their Great-Great-Aunt Laura. Tottie was made of wood, a “farthing doll,” and was a very kind head of the family. We get to know each doll and their unique personalities, but as we all know, dolls depend on their owners to come to life:
It is an anxious, sometimes a dangerous thing to be a doll. Dolls cannot choose; they can only be chosen; they cannot ‘do’; they can only be done by; children who do not understand this often do wrong things, and then the dolls are hurt and abused and lost; and when this happens dolls cannot speak, nor do anything except be hurt and abused and lost. If you have any dolls, you should remember that.
The dolls dream of having a house of their own to live in, so they don’t have to live in a shoebox any more. One day, the girls are given an old Victorian dollhouse, and the dolls are wonderfully happy…until Marchpane, a very vain and selfish porcelain doll arrives on the scene.
The writing and the imagination in this little story are lovely and fun. The book was written for those of us who love dolls and were even lucky enough to have a dollhouse at one point in our lives. I just wish I had found this book and read it during my own dollhouse years. It’s one I would have loved and remembered forever.