During World War I, a doll painted to look like a soldier is given to a British serviceman by his sweetheart, Margaret Merriweather. When he is killed in battle, Margaret writes about the missing doll in a poem that becomes world famous. The doll, meanwhile, travels the globe, passing from person to person as a token of luck during wartime. Almost a century later it is purchased by fifteen-year-old Elizabeth at a garage sale.
Elizabeth has recently moved to Toronto from Vancouver, and is dreading her father’s impending departure for Afghanistan. When Elizabeth learns that her doll may be the one commemorated in Merriweather’s poem, she and her father place an ad online requesting information about its origin. Together, the two gradually unravel the complicated history of the soldier doll and the misfortune it has witnessed.
In her debut novel, Soldier Doll, Jennifer Gold explores the unexpected legacy of war, and its consequences for future generations. An ambitious work that encompasses four major world conflicts, Soldier Doll is a gripping narrative that doesn’t trivialize the horrors of war, yet retains a hopeful tone. However, the novel’s construction of flashbacks framed within a present-day story is awkward and confusing and the plot seems contrived. While the soldier doll nicely links the various narratives, its purchase, only days before Elizabeth’s discovery of the famous poem, is too convenient considering the doll has been missing for almost a century. Further, Elizabeth’s own devastating loss is anticlimactic and unrealistically portrayed because the focus is on resolving the doll’s story instead.
Despite these flaws, Soldier Doll is interesting and extremely moving and will intrigue young readers to learn about historic events.