The Magic Toyshop (1967) is a British novel by Angela Carter. It follows the development of the heroine, Melanie, as she becomes aware of herself, her environment, and her own sexuality.
The novel starts with Melanie stealing her mother’s wedding dress and venturing out in the night into her family’s property. However, on her way home, she realizes she forgot the key and is thus forced to climb up a tree to get back into her room, destroying the dress on the way up. The next morning, Melanie learns of the unexpected deaths of her parents in an aeroplane at the Grand Canyon, and she and her two siblings – Victoria and Jonathon – are moved to South London, to the care of her tyrannical uncle Philip, a bullish and eccentric maker of life-sized puppets. There, she meets her mute aunt Margaret, who is mistreated by and terrified of her husband and only converses through notes. She also meets the violinist Francie, and the rakish Finn, who are Margaret’s younger brothers—the latter of whom she begins feeling romantic, sexually-conflicting feelings for. Uncle Philip, at first, ignores Melanie as she is introduced to his bizarre puppet shows. Meanwhile, Finn and Melanie grow closer until he takes her to a park, the remnants of the National Exhibition of 1852. There, after seeing a worn, fallen statue of Queen Victoria and walking across a chess board (only on the white squares), Finn kisses Melanie. She feels intruded by the gesture, imagining it only romantic as an observer from far away.