Harriette Arnow

The Dollmaker
  • The Dollmaker

  • 'A terrifying lesson in US history – and a haunting tragedy' Guardian

    Gertie is the young mother of five children – uneducated, determined, strong. Her only ambition is to own her own small farm in the Kentucky hills where she lives, to become self-sufficient and free.

    Whenever the struggle to live off the land eases, her inarticulate imagination takes its freedom and flies. Because Gertie is also an artist, a sculptor of wood and creator of beautiful handmade dolls.

    When the family is forced to move to industrial Detroit, with its pre-fab houses, appliances bought on credit and neighbours on every side, life turns into an incomprehensible, lonely nightmare. Gertie realises she must adapt to a life where land, family and creativity are replaced by just one thing: the constant need for money.

    ‘A masterwork… A superb book of unforgettable strength and glowing richness’ New York Times


Harriette Arnow was an American teacher, novelist, social historian and essayist, celebrated for her works on the populations of the Southern Appalachian Mountains. She was born into a family of teachers in 1908 and after studying at the University of Louisville taught for two years in a school in rural Pulaski County. These experiences provided the basis for her first novel, Mountain Path. After spending time in Cincinnati and Kentucky, Arnow moved with her husband and two children to a farm in Michigan. It was there that she wrote The Dollmaker in 1954, a book that would become a landmark in American fiction. It was at that same farm that she died in 1984.

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