Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Trash or Treasure: The Collector's Guide to Dollhouses and Dollhouse Miniatures

Confession time: I've been obsessed with dollhouses since I was a kid. It's the kind of interest you're supposed to outgrow, like candy necklaces or flicking your brother on the arm during car rides. But for a few adults, the allure of a miniaturized world persists. Marian Maeve O'Brien is one of my tribe.

I found the The Collector's Guide on the permanent sale shelves of a local library. It's the kind of book I would have looked at as a child. It has a certain familiarity, but I can't say whether that's because there are lots of similar books, or because I've seen this one before. What I would have loved as a child are the pictures. Though they're mostly black and white and not very sharp, they're of dollhouses! I'd devour them even if they were as bad as the pictures in Real Boys and Girls Go Birding.

As an adult, I actually read the book. The harrowing anecdotes about the author's personal dollhouses made me glad I bypassed the text as a kid. O'Brien says of her childhood dollhouse,"On the day I moved into a new house as a bride, I came home and found it in flames in the driveway." 

Her next dollhouse, a copy of her home complete with electricity and running water (my inner child is squealing with delight and envy) was destroyed by an angry child brought to an adults only party.

I sympathize with O'Brien's tales of dollhouse tragedy. My own beloved dollhouse was taken to the dump after 20 years of abuse by eager little fingers, but it was a dump where a shack was reserved for items to be given away. I fantasize that some child is currently playing with the miniature replica of my childhood home. At left is some of the flotsam and jetsam from my dollhouse that's survived.

Title: The Collector's Guide to Dollhouses and Dollhouse Miniatures
Author: Marian Maeve O'Brien
Date of Publication: 1974
Publisher: Hawthorn Books
                                                                                                                    ISBN: 0801514045
+ The book is extremely thorough in its coverage of all the various aspects of dollhouses and their contents. The dollhouses of various ladies are described in exhaustive detail.
+ There are a number of decent photographs.
+ The author offers suggestions for how the reader can make or acquire items similar to those described.

- The narrative is a bit dry. When you can't tell how the author feels about her husband lighting her dollhouse on fire, it's a pretty good indication that the book is lacking in verve and enthusiasm.

Final Verdict:
In a decision which I'm sure will surprise no one, I rate this book as Treasure. I'd probably rate any dollhouse book Treasure unless it was a expose on the dangers of the obsession. Like the other books featured thus far in Trash or Treasure, A Collector's Guide is widely available. Until next time, happy Trash or Treasure hunting!

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