Summary and book reviews of The Mannequin Makers by Craig Cliff

The Mannequin Makers

by Craig Cliff

The Mannequin Makers by Craig Cliff X
The Mannequin Makers by Craig Cliff
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  • Paperback:
    Nov 2017, 336 pages

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Book Reviewed by:
Kate Braithwaite
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About this Book

Book Summary

Playfully literate and strikingly original, an unforgettable debut novel about art, imitation, and obsession.

Excitement is rare in the small town of Marumaru, New Zealand. So when a young Maori man arrives on the morning train one day in 1903 - announcing the imminent visit of a famous strongman - the entire town turns out to greet him, save one. Colton Kemp, a department store window-dresser, is at home, watching his beloved wife die in premature childbirth. Tormented by grief, he hatches a plan to make his name and thwart his rival, the silent and gifted Carpenter: over the next sixteen years he will raise his newborn twins in secrecy and isolation, to become human mannequins in the world's most lifelike window display.

The Mannequin Makers is an adventure-filled and thoroughly delightful yarn, introducing one of international literature's most promising young talents to American audiences.

CHAPTER FIVE

In which Eugen Sandow performs in Marumaru and a seed is planted

Colton Kemp and Jolly Bannerman sat on the damp sand passing a bottle of peaty home-distilled whisky back and forth as the tide receded.

'To the New Year,' Bannerman said for the umpteenth time and held the bottle aloft. The two had spent the afternoon together. Jolly had asked after Louisa several times, but Kemp had not told him she was dead. More than a day had passed and he still had not told anyone. 'She's fine,' was all he'd say.

'And sweet wee Flossie?'

'As sweet as ever.'

'You're a lucky man, Col.'

'We shall see.'

He looked at the ironmonger, slouched forward over his knees, his slender height compressed like a heron about to take flight. Bannerman slapped his long, tobacco-stained fingers on the grey sand. 'Tell me I'm not a good husband, Col? Tell me I don't deserve a little respect?'

...

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Reviews

BookBrowse Review

BookBrowse

The novel that unfolds from an unusual premise moves forward and backward in time, and is dark in many ways. In Cliff's deft hands all the bizarre elements are surprisingly believable. The narrative is woven together from disparate strands mixing the various characters' perspectives before climaxing, in almost gothic fashion, on a cliff face miles from Marumaru. As entertaining as it is challenging, The Mannequin Makers is an impressive debut.   (Reviewed by Kate Braithwaite).

Full Review (517 words).

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Media Reviews

Kirkus Reviews
A grim and glorious meditation on the cruelty of fate

Publishers Weekly
Starred Review. This is a spellbinding and original tale, rife with perilous journeys, fascinating historical detail, and memorable characters.

Author Blurb Eowyn Ivey, author of To the Bright Edge of the World
Craig Cliff has brought turn-of-the-century Australia and New Zealand entirely to life in his haunting novel. With shades of Herman Melville and Richard Flanagan, it is a story of dark obsessions and family entanglements that will pull you in like a strong undertow. There are shipwrecks and deserted islands and uncanny illusions. But it's Cliff's writing about wood carving and the New Zealand landscape that lends the novel its beautiful lyricism.

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Beyond the Book

Castaways on the Antipodes Islands

In The Mannequin Makers, a mysterious character called The Carpenter finds himself shipwrecked on a tiny island, part of the Antipodes Islands that lie several hundred miles south of New Zealand. He has no idea where he is, beyond being lost somewhere in the Southern Ocean. The island which he describes as the "lemon wedge" (and his rescuers call Horseshoe Island), is now named Bollons Island after one of the men who rescues The Carpenter in the novel, real-life marine captain, John Bollons.

Bollons was born in London in 1862 and went to sea at the age of fourteen. He was shipwrecked when the vessel he worked on, England's Glory, ran ashore near Bluff Harbour in New Zealand in 1881. From then on Bollons was based in New Zealand working ...

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