The Doll Factory
'A sharp, scary, gorgeously evocative tale of love, art and obsession' Paula Hawkins, author of The Girl on the TrainThe Doll Factory, the debut novel by Elizabeth Macneal, is an intoxicating story of art, obsession and possession.London. 1850. The Great Exhibition is being erected in Hyde Park and among the crowd watching the spectacle two people meet. For Iris, an aspiring artist, it is the encounter of a moment – forgotten seconds later, but for Silas, a collector entranced by the strange and beautiful, that meeting marks a new beginning. When Iris is asked to model for pre-Raphaelite artist Louis Frost, she agrees on the condition that he will also teach her to paint. Suddenly her world begins to expand, to become a place of art and love.But Silas has only thought of one thing since their meeting, and his obsession is darkening . . .

The Doll Factory Details

TitleThe Doll Factory
Author
LanguageEnglish
ReleaseMay 2nd, 2019
PublisherPicador
ISBN-139781529002393
Rating
GenreHistorical, Historical Fiction, Fiction, Mystery

The Doll Factory Review

  • Maureen
    January 1, 1970
    Richly evocative of Victorian London, ‘The Doll Factory’ revolves around Iris, who together with her sister Rose, works for the cruel, laudanum addicted Mrs Salter. Iris dreams of being an artist, expressing herself on canvas, giving vent to her talents, rather than spending long hours of monotony painting dolls faces. When she meets pre- Raphaelite artist Louis Frost, and he asks her to model for him, she agrees, on condition that he teaches her to paint professionally.This is London 1850, and Richly evocative of Victorian London, ‘The Doll Factory’ revolves around Iris, who together with her sister Rose, works for the cruel, laudanum addicted Mrs Salter. Iris dreams of being an artist, expressing herself on canvas, giving vent to her talents, rather than spending long hours of monotony painting dolls faces. When she meets pre- Raphaelite artist Louis Frost, and he asks her to model for him, she agrees, on condition that he teaches her to paint professionally.This is London 1850, and a crowd of people are watching the construction of the Great Exhibition in Hyde Park, and it’s here that Iris has another meeting (albeit very fleeting) - his name is Silas, (a taxidermist by trade) - for Iris this is a meeting that’s immediately forgotten - but for Silas this is the beginning of an obsession that knows no limits - Iris will be his, of that he is certain, and in his own little world, he believes that she feels the same way too.This is a richly dark and gothic book, with Silas’s creepy obsession becoming ever more frightening as the story evolves and picks up pace. There were certain parts of the book that involved animal cruelty, which for me personally, is really difficult, and I therefore had to skim through these particular parts, but that said, it was a well written debut novel featuring art, romance, obsession and possession, and was ultimately a dark but gripping read.* Thank you to Netgalley and Pan Macmillan for my ARC. I have given an honest unbiased review in exchange *
    more
  • Paromjit
    January 1, 1970
    This is an unforgettable piece of chilling and gothic historical fiction, the debut from Elizabeth Macneal, set in the Victorian era. She writes an atmospheric and beautifully constructed story of art, ambition, a deranged obsession, love and horror, amidst the poverty, class divisions and entrenched inequalities, squalor, culture, scientific developments, and the prevalent social norms and attitudes of the time, such as the way women were treated. Iris and her sister, Rose live humdrum lives pa This is an unforgettable piece of chilling and gothic historical fiction, the debut from Elizabeth Macneal, set in the Victorian era. She writes an atmospheric and beautifully constructed story of art, ambition, a deranged obsession, love and horror, amidst the poverty, class divisions and entrenched inequalities, squalor, culture, scientific developments, and the prevalent social norms and attitudes of the time, such as the way women were treated. Iris and her sister, Rose live humdrum lives painting dolls for the laudanum addicted Mrs Salter. Life has not been easy for the sisters, Iris has ambitions to be an artist, but is not supported by her family in this. It is 1850, the year of the Great Exhibition, and Iris has what is for her an inconsequential encounter with the odd and strange Silas, a troubled taxidermist with his shop of curiosities, visited by the medical profession and artists. For the lonely Silas, it is to mark the start of an all encompassing obsession that is to become increasingly delusional as in his mind, Iris feels as he does.Iris encounters the Pre-Raphaelite artist, Louis Frost, who wants Iris to model for him, and which provides Iris with the opportunity she has been seeking to escape her suffocating life and social class and, realise her dreams. She asks Louis to provide her with art lessons, and he acquiesces, with Iris painting in secret. In a increasingly dark and disturbing narrative, Iris begins to have increasing feelings for Louis, but the disturbed Silas has other plans. The author skilfully captures this historical period with her rich and evocative descriptions, the Pre-Raphaelite brotherhood, the science, and in her diverse cast of characters. Her characterisation of Silas is stellar, he feels like a real and authentic character in all his madness, and I adored the young bright street child, Albie, with his understandable desire for a set of teeth. I found this a gripping story, particularly in the last part where it becomes more thriller than just pure historical fiction. It is an unsettling and disturbing immersive read, with its elements of horror, ideal for those who love historical fiction set in Victorian times. Highly recommended. Many thanks to Pan Macmillan for an ARC.
    more
  • Ova - Excuse My Reading
    January 1, 1970
    Review soon
  • Nadia
    January 1, 1970
    3.5 starsSet in Victorian London in 1850, Elizabeth MacNeal's debut novel, the Doll Factory, depicts a story of Iris, who despite her parents disapproval decides to follow her dream of becoming an artist. She meets Luis who is a painter from Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood and he is completely smitten by her. Luis wants to paint Iris and also agrees to give her painting lessons. However, Luis is not the only one who has their eyes on Iris. Iris and Silas are briefly introduced at an exhibition. While 3.5 starsSet in Victorian London in 1850, Elizabeth MacNeal's debut novel, the Doll Factory, depicts a story of Iris, who despite her parents disapproval decides to follow her dream of becoming an artist. She meets Luis who is a painter from Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood and he is completely smitten by her. Luis wants to paint Iris and also agrees to give her painting lessons. However, Luis is not the only one who has their eyes on Iris. Iris and Silas are briefly introduced at an exhibition. While Iris forgets Silas in an instant, for Silas this moment represents a lifechanging encounter. Socially awkward Silas dreams about Iris day and night. Completely delusional about her feelings, he believes she feels the same.I found the pace of the novel a bit slow to start with. Despite the book being atmosperic and the writing reminiscent of the Victorian era, it took me some time to get into it. It wasn't until about 80%, that my heartbeat finally increased. The story takes a sudden turn and I felt like I was reading a thriller. From this point I could not put the book down. To then come to an abrupt end, leaving me wishing for more, was frustrating and unfortunate.Many thanks to Pan Macmillan and NetGalley for my ARC in exchange for an honest review.
    more
  • Pauline
    January 1, 1970
    The Doll Factory by Elizabeth Macneal is the story of Iris who works in the Doll Factory and dreams of being an artist. She becomes a model for the artist Louis Frost and she embraces the world of art.Iris meets Silas who becomes obsessed with her and the story becomes very dark and sometimes scary.I would like to thank NetGalley and Pan Macmillan for my e-copy in exchange for an honest review.
    more
  • Emma
    January 1, 1970
    This was a great book. The descriptions and historical details were realistic and some were new to me. I’ve read quite a lot of Victorian historical fiction, so new ways of thinking about this era are always welcome: a boy saving for a full set of dentures; the fascination with natural history and taxidermy as the scientific discoveries of anatomy multiplied .The symbol of the Great Exhibition as the visible part of an iceberg, while the gritty filth and ordinariness of Victorian Street life lie This was a great book. The descriptions and historical details were realistic and some were new to me. I’ve read quite a lot of Victorian historical fiction, so new ways of thinking about this era are always welcome: a boy saving for a full set of dentures; the fascination with natural history and taxidermy as the scientific discoveries of anatomy multiplied .The symbol of the Great Exhibition as the visible part of an iceberg, while the gritty filth and ordinariness of Victorian Street life lies below the surface, was an image that came to me while reading. The revelations as the book goes on of the depths of Silas’ madness was very well done. Those mice!Many thanks to Netgalley for an arc of this book.
    more
  • Joanne Harris
    January 1, 1970
    Overall, a nice piece of atmospheric Gothic work, set in the world of Pre-Raphaelite art and featuring, among other things: artists' models; estranged twins; an endearing urchin; domestic tragedy; a deranged collector, plus various pieces of Romantic art, bad Victorian taxidermy, stained silk and bodily fluids. Well-written, evocative, and with just enough research detail to make the story pop, without descending into interminable descriptions of paint pigments. Not entirely sure the ending quit Overall, a nice piece of atmospheric Gothic work, set in the world of Pre-Raphaelite art and featuring, among other things: artists' models; estranged twins; an endearing urchin; domestic tragedy; a deranged collector, plus various pieces of Romantic art, bad Victorian taxidermy, stained silk and bodily fluids. Well-written, evocative, and with just enough research detail to make the story pop, without descending into interminable descriptions of paint pigments. Not entirely sure the ending quite merited the long build-up, but then I'm more than usually picky about pay-offs. Definitely worth a read.
    more
  • Blair
    January 1, 1970
    I don't read an awful lot of historical fiction unless it has a particular hook that appeals to my tastes (usually horror), and this reminded me why – which, I hasten to add, is not supposed to sound as harsh as it does. This is a good story, just not a book for me. The Doll Factory is a well-written and atmospheric take on Victorian London, most likely to appeal to fans of recent popular historical novels such as The Miniaturist, in which shop-girl Iris dreams of becoming an artist. She escapes I don't read an awful lot of historical fiction unless it has a particular hook that appeals to my tastes (usually horror), and this reminded me why – which, I hasten to add, is not supposed to sound as harsh as it does. This is a good story, just not a book for me. The Doll Factory is a well-written and atmospheric take on Victorian London, most likely to appeal to fans of recent popular historical novels such as The Miniaturist, in which shop-girl Iris dreams of becoming an artist. She escapes Mrs Salter's Doll Emporium for a new life as model, muse and student of Louis Frost, a fictional member of the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood. However, Iris has also – unknowingly – caught the eye of lonely, disturbed taxidermist Silas Reed. The bulk of the narrative is more concerned with Iris's emancipation than Silas's obsession, which is a commendable narrative choice, but limited its intrigue for me. The main attributes – the 19th-century heroine who thinks like a modern feminist; the similar plot points to John Fowles' The Collector – felt like things I've encountered before. Still, definitely entertaining, with a richly realised setting.I received an advance review copy of The Doll Factory from the publisher through NetGalley.TinyLetter | Twitter | Instagram | Tumblr
    more
  • Eric Anderson
    January 1, 1970
    When I can't sleep at night I have a habit of watching nature documentaries. At one point I found a programme that focuses on marsupials and there were two episodes on wombats. After discovering more about these rodent-like burrowers I was absolutely smitten and have become obsessed with watching videos about them ever since. It turns out I'm not alone as the Pre-Raphaelite artists of mid-nineteenth century London were also keen on these curious creatures – as described in this article about Dan When I can't sleep at night I have a habit of watching nature documentaries. At one point I found a programme that focuses on marsupials and there were two episodes on wombats. After discovering more about these rodent-like burrowers I was absolutely smitten and have become obsessed with watching videos about them ever since. It turns out I'm not alone as the Pre-Raphaelite artists of mid-nineteenth century London were also keen on these curious creatures – as described in this article about Dante Gabriel Rossetti's pet wombats. Elizabeth Macneal sent this to me because she is also a fan of wombats and one prominently features in her wonderfully immersive debut novel “The Doll Factory”. I always enjoy reading riveting Dickensian historical novels and Macneal's excellent book is at the same level as Sarah Waters' “Fingersmith” and Imogen Hermes Gowar's “The Mermaid and Mrs Hancock”, but when I encountered the character of Guinevere the wombat in “The Doll Factory” I fell firmly in love with it. The novel is immediately captivating as it describes the tale of the Whittle sisters who work in a doll shop where they painstakingly fashion and paint dolls under the watchful gaze of the bullying proprietress. One sister named Iris who has a misshapen clavicle aspires to become an artist and practices her painting in secret. There's also Silas who is a peculiar taxidermist who fashions curiosities out of animal carcases which he sometimes sells to artists to use as models for their painting. Connecting these two characters is a crafty and sensitive ten year old boy named Albie who is saving to buy himself a new set of teeth while also trying to navigate the hard city streets doing odd jobs like procuring material for the doll shop or animal carcases for Silas. Their stories are set against the 1851 Great Exhibition in London and the atmosphere is evoked with such excellent detail so that you feel the chaos, excitement and gritty realness of the city at this time.Read my full review of The Doll Factory by Elizabeth Macneal on LonesomeReader
    more
  • Julie Parks
    January 1, 1970
    THE DOLL FACTORY was captivating and authentic. Set in historic London of 1850, it is both dark and beautiful.The story can become scary at times but overall it's a joyride for your imagination.Thank you NetGalley for the chance to read this in exchange for my honest review.
    more
  • Lisa
    January 1, 1970
    Wow! What a powerhouse of a debut from Elizabeth Macneal! There is a lot of positive buzz currently surrounding this and I was expecting good things, but what I found within its pages was even better than I had hoped for. It's a delicious, absorbing, gritty historical fiction novel that fans of Fingersmith and The Collector will love. It's hardly surprising that fourteen publishers battled it out to win the rights to its publication, with Picador emerging as the eventual winners. Set in London i Wow! What a powerhouse of a debut from Elizabeth Macneal! There is a lot of positive buzz currently surrounding this and I was expecting good things, but what I found within its pages was even better than I had hoped for. It's a delicious, absorbing, gritty historical fiction novel that fans of Fingersmith and The Collector will love. It's hardly surprising that fourteen publishers battled it out to win the rights to its publication, with Picador emerging as the eventual winners. Set in London in the 1850s, it takes the reader on a gripping journey of love (both romantic and familial), art, ambition, loneliness and obsession all set against the backdrop of the Great Exhibition. Elizabeth Macneal clearly did a lot of research for this novel and as a result, 19th century London comes vividly to life. You can literally taste and smell the grime of the poverty-stricken backstreets whilst at the same time marvelling at the splendour and glory of the Great Exhibition and the beauty contained within the works of the pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood. This book is also populated by some really well-drawn characters, most of whom wouldn't look out of place in a Charles Dickens novel, and also contains one of the best accounts/studies of an obsessive, unhinged mind that I have ever read about. Put it this way, the character of Silas will stay with me for a long, long time. Some of the things he thought about and did were truly disturbing and my heart was often in my mouth during the latter stages of the book. As you will no doubt guess from these comments, this book gets pretty dark at times and contains some scenes that are quite tough to read about, including animal cruelty, and as a result will not be for everyone. However, if it holds even the slightest interest for you, please do check it out. It is well worth it in my opinion. I felt it was a bit slow to get going but once it did, it didn't let me go until I had turned the final page. It's definitely the best book I have read so far in 2019 and I will be keeping an eye out for Elizabeth Macneal's future works as I think she is an incredibly talented new author.
    more
  • Liz Barnsley
    January 1, 1970
    The Doll Factory was an immersive, authentic read with an undertone of darkness and a great Historical setting that you just sink into.It is a pacy read that is part historical drama and part thriller – it has a slow burn start that immediately engages you with this small group of humanity all living around the build up to the Great Exhibition. It is a novel about art and creativity, but also a story of love and obsession, of wanting to escape the bounds of your social standing, about hopes and The Doll Factory was an immersive, authentic read with an undertone of darkness and a great Historical setting that you just sink into.It is a pacy read that is part historical drama and part thriller – it has a slow burn start that immediately engages you with this small group of humanity all living around the build up to the Great Exhibition. It is a novel about art and creativity, but also a story of love and obsession, of wanting to escape the bounds of your social standing, about hopes and dreams…Iris wants to be an artist, she is judged harshly by her family, but when she is asked to become a model for Louis Frost suddenly life takes a turn for the better. However hovering in the background is the strange and menacing Silas – who in one moment of time has singled out Iris for his particular attention..This novel, despite it’s fairly gentle start, is immediately gripping and vaguely unnerving. Iris, painting in the cellar trying to avoid discovery, Albie, a boy who only wants new teeth, Silas, whose shop of curiosities is the go to for artists of the time, Rose, sister of Iris who suffered a terrible childhood illness and Louis Frost – pre Raphaelite artist and part of a group of like minded friends. We follow this eclectic group and their interactions, meanwhile under the surface there is a feeling of doom, of something dark approaching, which when it comes will leave you breathless…I loved this because it was different, strangely charming and the author gets over the sense of the time brilliantly. The setting pops and the intricate layers of the story are cleverly woven. I enjoyed the art theme very much, not overdone but set within the character drama unfolding. Descriptively it is beautiful, plus the two halves work so well with the first half being more historical fiction than thriller but then throwing you into an ending that is brutally realistic and heart stopping.Overall a really excellent debut. Highly Recommended.
    more
  • michelle
    January 1, 1970
    Set in London in 1850, sisters Rose and Iris work for Mrs Salter at the Doll factory painting the faces and hands of porcelain dolls. But Iris dreams of becoming an artist. One day she meets Louis Frost. Who she agrees to become a model for him, in return for Louis to teach her how to paint. She leaves her sister behind, and moves into the room whilst modelling. Her sister Rose disapproves so much, that they end up not talking. As they spend so much time together Iris and Louis all in love.Whils Set in London in 1850, sisters Rose and Iris work for Mrs Salter at the Doll factory painting the faces and hands of porcelain dolls. But Iris dreams of becoming an artist. One day she meets Louis Frost. Who she agrees to become a model for him, in return for Louis to teach her how to paint. She leaves her sister behind, and moves into the room whilst modelling. Her sister Rose disapproves so much, that they end up not talking. As they spend so much time together Iris and Louis all in love.Whilst Louis and Iris go to an exhibition, they meet Silas a taxidermist by trade, but because Iris is so overwhelmed by the exhibition she soon forgets him. But it’s not the same for Silas. As soon as he has met her he is smitten and he fantasises about the life that he could have with Iris.I love gothic Victorian novels and I was excited to given a chance to read the one. The story was well written, describing the Victorian era and made me feel that I was actually there but, I thought the start was quite slow and for me personally a bit over the top at times. I am glad though that I preserved with this. I like the darkness of the story and the creepy character of Silas. Yes, he is a bad person but, I also felt sorry for him as, he did what he did, only to find someone to love him.Thank you NetGalley and Pan Macmillan for a copy of this book for an honest review.
    more
  • Xueting
    January 1, 1970
    Trigger warning: violence and animal crueltyGripping and original. Macneal uses the gothic and grim atmosphere of Victorian London to examine the objectification of women as encouraged by the romantic art (mostly made by men) of that time. The imprisonment and saving of helpless women by men have become a common theme in paintings, even among the characters who are pushing for a new movement in art. What happens when someone wants to recreate that art in real life? It’s fascinating to read how M Trigger warning: violence and animal crueltyGripping and original. Macneal uses the gothic and grim atmosphere of Victorian London to examine the objectification of women as encouraged by the romantic art (mostly made by men) of that time. The imprisonment and saving of helpless women by men have become a common theme in paintings, even among the characters who are pushing for a new movement in art. What happens when someone wants to recreate that art in real life? It’s fascinating to read how Macneal reimagines real, historic artists and events: the Pre-Raphaelites, the Great Exhibition, Rossetti... there are many names not familiar to me but I bet are historic figures too. Based on the actual Victorian novels I’ve read, I feel like Macneal really captures the life in the era, the way they speak and write. At times the writing can get a bit dense, and it took about 40 pages till the story picked up for me. But once the direction got clearer, I was engrossed. There is sharp critique running through her prose about obsession, possession and men’s warped “romantic” ideas of freedom... but it’s most impressive that the novel offers this critique not through parody or satire. Macneal deftly balances Victorian sensibilities about gender with her modern 21st century feminist critique. The protagonist Iris is not a radically independent woman, but is still determined to advance herself through ways that are realistic for the times. The novel feels like something that could have actually happened during the Victorian era, an unveiling of the darker sides and stories about violent obsession of that time that have been hidden. The antagonist character Silas is downright creepy. I dread reading the chapters of him and he makes me disgusted. But that’s testament to Macneal’s talent, diving inside his sick mind so intimately and yet not really sympathetising with him. He’s a taxidermist, and his chapters have several graphic scenes of animal cruelty that can be horrible. Those who want to avoid reading such things should be warned.“The Doll Factory” is remarkable as a debut novel. I look forward to seeing what Macneal will write next!
    more
  • SueKich
    January 1, 1970
    The ruptured mind.London 1850: Iris and her disfigured twin sister Rose are trapped working brutish hours for the nasty owner of a doll shop. “Seed pearls, ruched sleeves, passementerie trimmings, tiny velvet buttons as small as mouse noses.” Iris yearns to be an artist. When she meets Louis Frost, one of the pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood, she is persuaded to model for him on the condition that he teaches her to paint.Meanwhile, the weirdly sinister Silas Reed is involved in his own ‘close work’ of The ruptured mind.London 1850: Iris and her disfigured twin sister Rose are trapped working brutish hours for the nasty owner of a doll shop. “Seed pearls, ruched sleeves, passementerie trimmings, tiny velvet buttons as small as mouse noses.” Iris yearns to be an artist. When she meets Louis Frost, one of the pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood, she is persuaded to model for him on the condition that he teaches her to paint.Meanwhile, the weirdly sinister Silas Reed is involved in his own ‘close work’ of taxidermy. On a visit to the Great Exhibition, he is introduced to Iris by a mutual acquaintance, a young toothless scamp who supplies Silas with dead animals for his models. Silas is gruesomely attracted to Iris's warped collarbone and becomes instantly infatuated with her. It’s not the first time he’s been held by the grip of such an obsession.This is Elizabeth Macneal’s impressive debut in which she gives us glimpses of a Victorian London thrusting forward with new inventions, new art, new vision and yet stuck in squalid filth and antiquated attitudes. She is enlightening on the ambitions of artists and craftsmen, and the importance to them of selection into the great exhibitions of the day. She's also very good on Iris's love for Louis: “She wants all of him. She wants to be as close as she can to him, to be a part of him – to give herself to exquisite disgrace.” (Modelling for an artist in those days being just one step up from prostitution.)But it is Macneal’s insight into the mind of a psychotic that is the most convincing. “He imagines her bladder within her, wet and pink like the inside of a peach, and then apart from her, dried out and white like a crisp pig’s ear.” His creepy curiosity shop which comes to reflect “the rupture of his mind”. Though the last part of the novel is perhaps a little over-extended, the author’s portrayal of Silas is positively chilling.My thanks to Picador for a review copy courtesy of NetGalley.
    more
  • Marie (UK)
    January 1, 1970
    Overall I think there will be many people who buy and thoroughly enjoy this book. It is a bit slow moving at the beginning but Macneal builds a strong narrative. The times are captured well but this is less an historical fiction than a mystery / thriller/ horror . Her characterisation is excellent - particularly of Silas and Albie. However, I have to say, it verged too far towards horror for me. It was very dark at times and I really didn't enjoy reading some of the book - I think I am a bit too Overall I think there will be many people who buy and thoroughly enjoy this book. It is a bit slow moving at the beginning but Macneal builds a strong narrative. The times are captured well but this is less an historical fiction than a mystery / thriller/ horror . Her characterisation is excellent - particularly of Silas and Albie. However, I have to say, it verged too far towards horror for me. It was very dark at times and I really didn't enjoy reading some of the book - I think I am a bit too much of a wimp. Despite that I wanted to credit the writing and the power of the storyline and thats why I decided on 3 stars.
    more
  • Aimee Walker Editorial
    January 1, 1970
    Packed full of things I love to read about...Victorians, The Great Exhibition, Pre Raphaelite Brothers, the history of art and criticism –along with some romance and a bit of creepy gothic horror – what’s not to like?! Highly recommend! Thanks to Netgalley and the publisher for this ecopy in exchange for an honest review.
    more
  • Beadyjan
    January 1, 1970
    Oh yes!! this will surely be a huge success. Two sisters Iris and Rose work together making dolls. It is the mid 19th century and whilst nearby the great exhibition is being planned, their days are long and repetitive, working for a hard taskmistress the girls dream of escaping to a more congenial life, Rose wants her own genteel little shop and Iris dreams of learning to paint. But both girls bear the scars of living in an era where medical care wasn't great. Rose has lost her beauty to the sca Oh yes!! this will surely be a huge success. Two sisters Iris and Rose work together making dolls. It is the mid 19th century and whilst nearby the great exhibition is being planned, their days are long and repetitive, working for a hard taskmistress the girls dream of escaping to a more congenial life, Rose wants her own genteel little shop and Iris dreams of learning to paint. But both girls bear the scars of living in an era where medical care wasn't great. Rose has lost her beauty to the scarring of smallpox whilst Iris has a hunched shoulder, due to a break in her collarbone at birth.and both girls fear no man will even look at them now.Iris's beauty, however, attracts the attention of two very different men. She is approached by artist Louis Frost, a member of the burgeoning pre Raphaelite brotherhood who begs her to model for his painting for which she barters art lessons in return. Whilst in the shadows of the grimiest rookeries of old London, lurks lonely Silas, a taxidermist who admires Iris from afar and whilst his shyness prevents him voicing his admiration for her, he remains on the periphery of her world fantasising about when they eventually meet, sure she will eventually love him as he adores her.As we move between the courts and shops of Victorian London, we glimpse everyday life at its most brutal the descriptions are superb and I felt as though I was one step behind Iris throughout her journey. The reader meets several wonderful characters and young Albie, a street urchin who longs only for some false teeth to replace the one worn stump of a tooth which is all that remains of his gnashers, earned a place in my heart.As Iris begins to shake off her shackles, Rose remains in the doll factory, modelling tiny faces and fitting miniature gowns to dolls for rich little girls. Iris grows further apart from her sister and whilst she does begin to feel love for one of the men in her life, in the other, builds an unhealthy obsession.As she falls in love, she also becomes the object of a dangerous obsession.This is a wonderfully atmospheric historical novel, woven around a world of art and creativity with lots of details about pre-raphaelite artists, and a tense thriller and mystery which will have you on the edge of your seat. Its a creeper, beginning slowly until you are immersed in it ad it just won't let go. I loved it and feel the characters will stay with me for a long time.
    more
  • Zuzana N
    January 1, 1970
    Fabulously written historical fiction set in London in 1850 with this eye catching cover will become the best seller of 2019!I don’t tend to go for historical genres very often but this one just grabbed my attention from the first chapter. Iris, an aspiring artist, lives her repetitive life working in the doll factory with her sister. Every evening ends the same way every morning began. Painting dolls faces is not quite what Iris wants to do, she wants to paint and create, wants to express herse Fabulously written historical fiction set in London in 1850 with this eye catching cover will become the best seller of 2019!I don’t tend to go for historical genres very often but this one just grabbed my attention from the first chapter. Iris, an aspiring artist, lives her repetitive life working in the doll factory with her sister. Every evening ends the same way every morning began. Painting dolls faces is not quite what Iris wants to do, she wants to paint and create, wants to express herself but with limited resources and money there is very little she can do.When she receives an offer to be a model for upcoming artist she accepts even if being a model is connected to so much stigma, risking losing her parents and sister but gaining freedom and just going for her dream. Little did she know that short encounter with a collector Silas will change both their lives forever.Story of love, dreams but also dark imagination and obsession. I have no doubt that this book will do brilliantly and although it was dark and little creepy at times, it was really engaging and uplifting at times.
    more
  • Theresa Smith
    January 1, 1970
    The Doll Factory is exactly my kind of novel. Set in Victorian London, it’s a real mish-mash in terms of genre: Penny Dreadful meets Dickens with a dash of Keats – I was swooning from the first page to the last, such a treat this novel was for me. Victorian London is depicted in all its gruesome grimy glory, and against this backdrop we meet Iris, an apprentice doll maker and aspiring artist, stifled by her lot in life.‘She will never escape. She will never be free. She is destined to eke out th The Doll Factory is exactly my kind of novel. Set in Victorian London, it’s a real mish-mash in terms of genre: Penny Dreadful meets Dickens with a dash of Keats – I was swooning from the first page to the last, such a treat this novel was for me. Victorian London is depicted in all its gruesome grimy glory, and against this backdrop we meet Iris, an apprentice doll maker and aspiring artist, stifled by her lot in life.‘She will never escape. She will never be free. She is destined to eke out this pitiful life, to suffer the slaps and insults of Mrs Salter, to endure her sister’s jealousy, until, at last, some scrawny boy fattens her with child after child, and she spends her days winching laundry through a mangle, swilling rotten offal into Sunday pies, all while tending to infants mewling with scarlatina and influenza and goodness knows what else, until she contracts it too…’We also meet her twin sister Rose, bitter and pox scarred, her hopes and dreams in tatters, spitefully jealous, a misunderstanding widening the rift between her and Iris day by day. And Albie, a little street urchin, living in a brothel with his sister, seeing and hearing all, yet often dismissed as insignificant, and always underestimated. Then there’s Louis, an artist with the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood, who offers Iris a position as his model, thus changing her life forever. And lastly, there is Silas, a taxidermist and collector of strange specimens, himself the strangest of all. When he meets Iris in the briefest of encounters, he is immediately drawn to her on account of her twisted collarbone, caused from a breakage during birth. To Silas, she is the most beautiful oddity of all, and he rapidly becomes obsessed with her, his delusions encroaching upon his reality in the most alarming way.‘She is polite. She is unfailingly polite, and now he knows that she barely remembers him, it occurs to him that she may not want to come at all, that she may just agree to spare his feelings. And what then? A thought passes across his brain, as clear as glass. Well, then, the voice says, you must kill her. He almost laughs at himself – how ludicrous of him.’When Iris accepts the position as a model, it is under the condition that Louis also tutor her in art. She has some talent, both as a model and an artist, and before too long, Louis and Iris are entwined in both a professional and romantic liaison. Theirs is the type of love story I enjoy the most, devoid of romantic clap trap but infused instead with passion and devotion. They are from different worlds, but their connection through art transcends these barriers.‘She pulls her shawl about her, readying herself to leave, but he risks a slight glance at her, and she cannot stop herself. She cannot let him go – she cannot. It feels, in that moment, that she must have all of him or nothing at all, and she cannot bear to lose him and all that she associates with him: his hand over hers, guiding her pencil across the page. A slash of bright red on a canvas. A painted strawberry, perfectly ripe, the gleam of its catchpoint.’As Iris’s fortunes improve, she continues to look out for Albie and doesn’t give up on repairing her relationship with her sister, Rose. Iris is a good person: kind and generous, beautiful, but flawed enough to keep her grounded. I really liked her, which made it all the more dreadful to witness Silas’s growing obsession and increasingly delusional behaviour. His actions were really frightening. He met Iris once, and then a second time when he put himself into her path, but from here, he fabricated an entire relationship between them, plotted out a future. His obsession was more than sinister, it was sickeningly disturbing and as the novel progresses, his mind unravels further, and we become privy to other acts of depravity by Silas against other people he has become obsessed with over the course of his life. He is one of the most creepy characters I have read in a long time.‘How all her life she has been careful not to encourage men, but not to slight them either, always a little fearful of them. She is seen as an object to be gazed at or touched at leisure: an arm around her waist is nothing more than friendly, a whisper in her ear and a forced kiss on the cheek is flattering, something for which she should be grateful. She should appreciate the attentions of men more, but she should resist them too, subtly, in a way both to encourage and discourage, so as not to lead to doubts of her purity and goodness but not to make men feel snubbed – she is tired, her limbs heavy.’As far as debuts go, this is top shelf historical fiction, and if I hadn’t read it in the author’s bio, I’d never have picked this as a first novel. The storytelling is sublime, you’re just wrapped up in this world with the most realistic characters, the setting infused with so much atmosphere it sets all of your senses tingling. I was filled with this mounting dread as the novel progressed of the likes I haven’t felt since watching the television series, Penny Dreadful. This novel is so good; I dare you to step into the world of The Doll Factory. You can thank me after.Thanks is extended to Pan Macmillan Australiafor providing me with a copy of The Doll Factory for review.
    more
  • Lou
    January 1, 1970
    Exquisite. Simply exquisite historical fiction. Winner of the Caledonia Novel Award 2018 and touted as Picador's most spectacular debut for 2019 it is difficult to explain just how sublime this was, and I am almost lost for words to describe the stunning fragility and intrigue this story brings. Set in 1850s Victorian London, the period detail is perfect invoking the sight, scents and sounds of this great city; it's clear Ms Macneal has researched the era extensively to bring a rounded authentic Exquisite. Simply exquisite historical fiction. Winner of the Caledonia Novel Award 2018 and touted as Picador's most spectacular debut for 2019 it is difficult to explain just how sublime this was, and I am almost lost for words to describe the stunning fragility and intrigue this story brings. Set in 1850s Victorian London, the period detail is perfect invoking the sight, scents and sounds of this great city; it's clear Ms Macneal has researched the era extensively to bring a rounded authenticity. I was particularly impressed and intrigued by learning more about the sisters who were part of the pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood and much like other women of their time were overlooked.This feels as far from a debut as you could get, often debuts are where an author finds their feet, but it appears that this master wordsmith found hers long ago. An incredibly accomplished debut and one of those books other writers will strongly wish they had birthed.The Doll Factory is a startling meditation on the all-consuming nature of obsession and love set against the backdrop of The Great Exhibition and wider London art scene. Also explored are themes of devotion, madness and, of course, art. The tagline: "freedom is a precious thing" and the bell jar featuring various important pieces that form the basis of the story illustrates the powerful nature of love but if treated carelessly that the fine line between love and hate can often be crossed and never returned back from. The cast of characters deepen with every passing chapter, the tense undercurrent that runs throughout grips from the very beginning and the vivid imagery makes you feel a part of the story rather than an outsider looking in. There are some genuinely chilling, creepy incidents on the slow-building journey to the climax which creates a claustrophobic atmosphere. Towards the last half of the book, the story pace rises and moves closer to a simply heart-pounding crescendo.I'm finding it really problematic doing The Doll Factory justice with this review and I must say that I rarely have an issue with reviewing. However, I feel floored after finishing this, and despite the number of books I read this one will unmistakably hold a special place in my heart for the way it made me feel throughout.If you enjoy the period detail of historical fiction, the drama and shocking surprises of a thriller and books such as The Miniaturist and The Mermaid & Mrs Hancock then this will likely charm you as it did me. This, in my opinion, in unmissable. I will patiently await her next dazzling work. Ms Macneal, you have an ardent fan. Many thanks to Picador for an ARC.
    more
  • Vikki Patis
    January 1, 1970
    Historical fiction is one of my favourite genres, and I especially like books which do not flinch away from the harsh realities of the time in which they are set. The Doll Factory is such a novel, which follows the lives of Iris and Silas, bound together only by his infatuation with her. Iris is a strong, intelligent woman who has, in many ways, freed herself from the constraints of society by giving up her respectable post in a doll shop, abandoning her sister in the process, and becoming a mod Historical fiction is one of my favourite genres, and I especially like books which do not flinch away from the harsh realities of the time in which they are set. The Doll Factory is such a novel, which follows the lives of Iris and Silas, bound together only by his infatuation with her. Iris is a strong, intelligent woman who has, in many ways, freed herself from the constraints of society by giving up her respectable post in a doll shop, abandoning her sister in the process, and becoming a model for an artist. The author uses Iris to narrate on society as a whole, how many aspects have not changed between the 1800s and now, and the theme of setting ourselves free is woven into the pages.An engaging and brilliant novel, The Doll Factory shall join the ranks of some of the best historical fiction novels of our time, and I look forward to the author's next venture.
    more
  • 4cats
    January 1, 1970
    Victorian Britain has never felt more alive, I absolutely loved The Doll Factory. The novel reads like a dream. I loved the mix of fact with fiction, the central characters are fictional creations who work so well with Millais, Rossetti and the Pre raphaelite group. The relationship between Iris and her twin sister Rose, is totally believeable and I must say Silas is one of the darkest characters I've read, throughout the novel I had this sense of foreboding and at moments couldn't bear to keep Victorian Britain has never felt more alive, I absolutely loved The Doll Factory. The novel reads like a dream. I loved the mix of fact with fiction, the central characters are fictional creations who work so well with Millais, Rossetti and the Pre raphaelite group. The relationship between Iris and her twin sister Rose, is totally believeable and I must say Silas is one of the darkest characters I've read, throughout the novel I had this sense of foreboding and at moments couldn't bear to keep reading as I had connected with Iris too much (if that's possible). Elizabeth Macneal doesn't hide the visceral horror faced by the poor in Victorian London and has managed to create a novel full of realism, historical detail but full of Gothic influences.
    more
  • Tahlia
    January 1, 1970
    (Gifted) Blog Post: https://museofnyxmares.wordpress.com/...Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/museofnyxma...*I was provided with an ARC by the publisher in exchange for my honest opinion. All quotes used may be subject to change upon publication.Firstly, I want to state that I’m still not completely over this book and consequently, my feelings are all over the place, but I will to try and write a review worthy of this book. It’s just magical when a book transports you to another time and plac (Gifted) Blog Post: https://museofnyxmares.wordpress.com/...Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/museofnyxma...*I was provided with an ARC by the publisher in exchange for my honest opinion. All quotes used may be subject to change upon publication.Firstly, I want to state that I’m still not completely over this book and consequently, my feelings are all over the place, but I will to try and write a review worthy of this book. It’s just magical when a book transports you to another time and place, and that’s exactly what The Doll Factory did. I was walking alongside Iris through the streets of 1850s London, with the rules and conventions of the time period so clearly etched in my mind, indulging in the pleasures of art and love. For me, nothing can beat a historical fiction done well and so I loved all the talk of the art movements etc, but particularly the examination of women in that society, ‘She has been brought up on tales of innocent girls lured in by promises which are not kept, warned of all the dangers which lie in wait like a wolf in the shadows’. I felt like Iris was the perfect person to demonstrate the invisible restraints that society places on women and the poor, and how not everyone sticks to, or believes in these social conventions. And moreover, how you have the power to change your life.When I first started reading this, I felt like it was going to be quite a heavy story, and by that I mean, that the characters seemed to have such bleak existences. Iris and her sister are stuck in this shop making dolls to help their parents with bills. Their mistress is a mean spirited woman, who even administers pinches to the girls. Their work is repetitive and uneventful. Iris feels like she’ll never escape this pitiful existence she has and repeatedly envisions running away, the only solace she finds is sneaking down to the basement at night and painting naked. She knows what others would think if she were found out, but it thrills her in a way that she can’t explain and she almost wishes that someone would catch her, put her out of the misery that is her life. Rose on the other hand, already feels like she had everything she wanted and it was so cruelly taken from her.Rose was considered the beauty of the two and had a fiance, that is until she got smallpox and her face became scarred and her vision lost in one eye. Where Iris dares to dream of a better life, Rose almost seems resigned to her fate and is constantly scolding Iris to behave in a more socially acceptable way. All they truly have is each other to cling to, but they haven’t been close since Rose’s looks were taken from her. Iris feels like Rose is holding her back, but she’s also devastated that they aren’t as close as they used to be. She also knows that Rose is jealous of her and that Rose even blames her for how her life has turned out, ‘why me? why me?’ she wailed, and then, only once, a hissed whisper that Iris wondered if she misheard: ‘It should have been you.’. Their relationship was a big part of the book and the complexities of it made it fascinating to read about, ‘Even though they are identical, the twins could not be less alike. As young girls, Rose was always singled out as the real beauty of the two, their parents’ favourite, and she clutched this understanding like a treasure’.The other two characters that were living less than desirable lives, were Silas and Albie. Silas is miserably lonely, but tries to convince himself otherwise, by loathing almost everyone around him. Like most people with his disposition, he is consumed by his work. He collects his dead animals and insects and works them into stuffed pieces or between glass, selling them to artists for study or the curious, or keeps them for his own personal collection. He is a removed and sinister character altogether and he is sure to unnerve a few people, mostly by the grandeur of illusions that he creates in his head. He is probably the poster child for how deeply ones childhood can affect them later in life, ‘It makes him draw back into himself, to recall himself at Albie’s age…his arms aching from his mother’s fists. It makes him wonder if he’s ever truly left that life’. And then we have Albie, who is currently experiencing his childhood, which is probably as awful as Silas’.Albie and his sister are dirt poor, they have to rely on Albie thieving things to have any money or on his sister selling her body for money, Albie even has to share the room with her that she sees her clients in. It’s honestly so horrific to think about, they are both just children. Albie also only has one tooth and he’s desperate to save up enough money to get a false set. Albie and Iris are familiar with each other, as he sells doll clothes to her mistress to make money and Iris watches out for him. Their friendship was so sweet and the way that Alfie was so protective of her was so adorable. He really was a rascal and an angel at the same time and he didn’t deserve anything that happened to him, ‘He hates it…though he accepts it too, and does not think of his life in terms of happiness or unhappiness, just as survival’. His plight broke my heart and I can feel the tears coming again just thinking about everything he went through, and how he was constantly trying to do right by Iris and his sister.It isn’t until all these characters lives start to intersect, that things really start to change for them all. After a chance encounter, Albie introduces Silas to Iris, reluctantly and quite unintentionally. Silas then locks on to her with a vice like grip and she becomes his new obsession, he’s struck by how much her red hair reminds him of a girl from his past and is mesmerized by the strange defect in her collar bone, like how the unusual animal corpses set his heart racing. From that single encounter, he’s in Iris’ life, watching from the shadows or making his bizarre attempts to win her affection. But in his deep rooted desire to win others approval, he throws an obstacle in his way when he suggests to an artist that he should paint her, ‘covers his neck as if to pack the words back down his throat. She is too prized, she is his, and he can scarcely believe what he has done’.Louis is a charismatic young artist, who sometimes buys pieces off of Silas. Against her better judgement, in a desperate attempt to create some resistance to the stagnant flow of her life, Iris agrees to model for him, knowing that she’ll lose her family and her job. But she accepts on one condition, that Louis teach her to paint. What ensues are the most glorious chapters of Iris relishing in this new found freedom, falling in love with Louis, as well as painting, grappling with how others would view their relationship as they are unmarried and if she’ll make any real success being a female painter. Louis and Iris’ relationship was so beautiful to me, the progression of it felt so natural and I enjoyed the slow build of emotions between them, ‘She nods, and he tucks it into her hair, his finger brushing her ear. This is all too much – it is too fast, too enchanting, and she wants everything to slow down’. They were such a great pairing, I adore them both and may have fallen a bit in love with Louis myself.This was a deliciously addictive novel that made me squirm as many times as it made me smile. It honestly had everything, extremely well written characters, stunning writing – that wasn’t overdone, fantastic setting and an unfathomably clever and greatly crafted plot. The plot for me, besides the characters and the writing, was probably what blew me away the most. The book is split into three parts and each one was just as thrilling as the others, with that last one being gripping and tense beyond belief. The Doll Factory was the complete experience, I was moved by the portrayal of the ugly truths of life, the Beauty of art and falling in love, and it had the heart racing suspense of a thriller. This is without a doubt one of the best debut novels that I’ve read, I’m even willing to forgive the author for breaking my heart, because it was a masterpiece.
    more
  • Kelly Van Damme
    January 1, 1970
    There has been some fuss lately about debut authors, and the kind of marketing they are getting, to the detriment of established authors. I agree that debut authors are often praised like they’re the best thing since sliced bread, and I have to admit that always makes me feel a bit wary and perhaps even a little wayward: you know what, I’ll make up my own mind about how great this debut is thank you very much! However, every once in a while a debut deserves all the praise it’s getting and then s There has been some fuss lately about debut authors, and the kind of marketing they are getting, to the detriment of established authors. I agree that debut authors are often praised like they’re the best thing since sliced bread, and I have to admit that always makes me feel a bit wary and perhaps even a little wayward: you know what, I’ll make up my own mind about how great this debut is thank you very much! However, every once in a while a debut deserves all the praise it’s getting and then some, and that is definitely the case with The Doll Factory. If I hadn’t been told this is a debut, I would never have guessed. This is written so flawlessly, so effortlessly, so masterfully. The prose is simply gorgeous. The words flow, easily but lushly, rich in colourful, evocative detail.The Doll Factory is the most outstanding historical fiction, even if you’re not a history buff or art-obsessed, I’m not, and yet this novel stole my heart. Obviously the historical aspect is a hugely important one, especially in terms of characters and setting. However, there was so much more to be found between the pages of The Doll Factory. It felt to me as You (Caroline Kepnes) meets The Blue (Nancy Bilyeau). Why The Blue: because it’s historical fiction obviously, but much more than that. Like Genevieve in The Blue, Iris is quite rebellious for the day and age in which she dwells: she knows what she wants, and what she wants is to paint. But women are the models, the supporters of men, not the artists, doesn’t she realise?! She does, she just doesn’t care. She’s feisty, emancipated, stubborn, kickass in her very own way, but sweet and caring too. I loved her! Another element The Doll Factory has in common with The Blue is its educational nature: I learned a lot and I never even noticed because the story was just so entertaining! I like art as much as the next gal, but don’t quiz me on periods and artists, I’m like Jon Snow, I know nothing. Except now I do know a whole lot more than I did before. And it was child’s play! Why You: Silas reminded me of Joe, plain and simple. He’s obsessed with Iris, and somehow under the delusion that she loves him, even though she barely knows his name. He stalks her, he’s convinced he’s doing right by her, that his kind of love is the real deal. Classic Joe, am I right?! Except Silas is even creepier since he’s a taxidermist. I won’t claim all taxidermists are creepy, but Silas sure is! Know that the profession of taxidermy and the acts it requires are not shied away from.The Doll Factory is also a love story, not only in the traditional way, although there is some of that too, but also between Iris and her sister Rose. Rose is an excellent supporting character and so is Albie, the little street kid who brings Silas dead animals to stuff and sews little doll clothes to sell to the shop where Iris and Rose work.Last but not least, The Doll Factory is suspenseful, which took me by surprise. The finale read like a thriller and had me biting my lip and turning the pages as fast as I possibly could.Elizabeth Macneal states in her letter accompanying the proof copy how she was inspired by Lizzy Siddal on the one hand and collectors of curiosities on the other, and how she crammed all the things that fascinate her in this one book. Yes, the reader feels that fascination, that passion in her words, but no, it never feels like she crammed anything into this book. The storylines fit together like the pieces of a jigsaw puzzle, not crammed, not forced, but like it was always meant to be. Like the Pre-Raphaelites should have had an actual Iris, like Silas was an actual taxidermist in 1850’s London, like it was always written in the stars that they would meet.The Doll Factory will satisfy a wide range of readers. Elizabeth Macneal has masterfully painted a picture with lots of different elements and the result has a little something for everyone. A novel that will not be crammed into one little box and as such ticked all my boxes. Highly recommended!
    more
  • Jayne Catherine pinkett
    January 1, 1970
    Review to come. I need to consider what I feelI received an early copy from the publishers and NetGalley in return for my independent honest review. Thank you. This is a creepy gothic historical tale. The author captures the atmosphere of Victorian times in all its glory. The good,the bad and the ugly. You can imagine yourself there,the sights the sounds,the tastes and smells. It does contain grisly content featuring the work of the taxidermist Silas and this type of content will not be for ever Review to come. I need to consider what I feelI received an early copy from the publishers and NetGalley in return for my independent honest review. Thank you. This is a creepy gothic historical tale. The author captures the atmosphere of Victorian times in all its glory. The good,the bad and the ugly. You can imagine yourself there,the sights the sounds,the tastes and smells. It does contain grisly content featuring the work of the taxidermist Silas and this type of content will not be for everyone. I have given this 3* as I feel that the author has included some beautiful writing otherwise I would have rated it lower for the following reasons: There was enough plot content for three books and sometimes it was just too much for me. less would have been more effective. It was particularly confusing in the beginning and at sporadic times throughout. The pacing was generally slow, sorry but in my opinion boringly slow. It gathered pace towards the end, however I had already lost interest. There is a whole cast of characters and although I didn't like Silas he was my favourite. A creepy realistic character that was well crafted. I certainly think we shall be seeing many more books from this author.#NetGalley #thedollfactory
    more
  • Hayley (Backpacking Bookworm)
    January 1, 1970
    Set in 1850 London, this evocative book expertly intertwines themes of love, art and obsession. Iris and her twin sister Rose paint dolls for grouchy Mrs Salter in her Doll Emporium. Iris dreams of becoming a painter and is shocked when she is approached to model for Louis - an up and coming artist who thinks Iris is the perfect muse for his current project. Torn between leaving her sister and following her dream, she finally relents and leaves the Doll Factory. In another dingy store, Silas wor Set in 1850 London, this evocative book expertly intertwines themes of love, art and obsession. Iris and her twin sister Rose paint dolls for grouchy Mrs Salter in her Doll Emporium. Iris dreams of becoming a painter and is shocked when she is approached to model for Louis - an up and coming artist who thinks Iris is the perfect muse for his current project. Torn between leaving her sister and following her dream, she finally relents and leaves the Doll Factory. In another dingy store, Silas works alone as the strange taxidermist, collecting dead animals and preserving their remains. He is an unsociable character who longs for company. Upon glancing Iris, he realises she is the one. He pursues her love, truly believing she loves him back. His dark obsession takes a sudden twist and Iris finds herself in a situation she never anticipated, with no way out.The setting of this story is vivid from the start and draws the reader straight in which is an immediate appeal. The characters are well-crafted, with insight into each of the main character's innermost thoughts and feelings. This was particularly interesting for Silas, as we see him darkening obsession start to take over his life and we begin to understand his 'reasoning' behind his erratic behaviour. The story has many strands and time is taken to build tension, mirroring the slow rationale of Silas's mind which then quickly unravels. It is realistic and frightening, with gothic elements and gruesome images of everyday life in this era. The inclusion of Albie's character gives perspective from a poor child's point of view and the result is disturbing, chilling and all too real. For a debut novel, I sincerely felt like it had all the components for a 5 star read and it was executed brilliantly. One of my favourite historical novels to date that I will definitely be recommending.Thank you to NetGalley for providing me with a free digital copy or this book in exchange for an honest review.
    more
  • Andrea Hicks
    January 1, 1970
    My thanks to PIcador/Pan Macmillan and Net Galley for giving me the opportunity to read THE DOLL FACTORY.I want to say 'wow' but I'm not sure it's even good enough for this amazing novel.. Elizabeth Macneal took me into her world and kept me there. I felt totally immersed in the story and by the end I was cheering, willing Iris to succeed. I read a lot of historical fiction, but this was so very different. What a debut!The story is set in London in 1850, when The Great Exhibition is being erecte My thanks to PIcador/Pan Macmillan and Net Galley for giving me the opportunity to read THE DOLL FACTORY.I want to say 'wow' but I'm not sure it's even good enough for this amazing novel.. Elizabeth Macneal took me into her world and kept me there. I felt totally immersed in the story and by the end I was cheering, willing Iris to succeed. I read a lot of historical fiction, but this was so very different. What a debut!The story is set in London in 1850, when The Great Exhibition is being erected in Hyde Park. Iris is introduced to Silas by little Albie, an urchin. To her it was just an ordinary introduction, forgotten in moments, but Silas saw it as something else completely. He is unable to forget her and wants to possess her. He is utterly obsessed by her and his raison d'etre becomes making her his. Silas is a taxidermist, a collector of bones and deformed animals. For him Iris is but another specimen to add to his collection.Wanting to change her life from the drudgery of Mrs Salter's Doll Emporium, she throws caution to the wind and becomes a model for pre-Raphaelite artist Louis Frost. Iris also loves to paint and she agrees to model on the condition that he will also become her teacher. This is the life she has longed for, but Silas' desire is overwhelming him and he won't be satisfied until he has her in his grip...
    more
  • Heather Nazmdeh
    January 1, 1970
    Oh yes, this is more like it. Proper historical fiction with real characters making an appearance. It is gritty stuff. You really wouldn’t want to be poor in Victorian England but the strugglers and chancers make the best reading. It is stuffed full of curiosities and deformity, lightness and dark, hope and despair. It is a cracking read.
    more
  • Ingstje
    January 1, 1970
    4.5 starsWell I am a real fan of historical novels from now on, I am so impressed with this novel! The Doll Factory is another beautiful historical fiction novel set in 1850’s London. I was completely lost in its wonderful setting. The novel is also very rich in contrasting elements that made it even more of a delight to read. There’s not only society’s eternal divide between the rich and poor but there’re also amazing oppositions with love versus obsession and hate, reality and dreams… and I do 4.5 starsWell I am a real fan of historical novels from now on, I am so impressed with this novel! The Doll Factory is another beautiful historical fiction novel set in 1850’s London. I was completely lost in its wonderful setting. The novel is also very rich in contrasting elements that made it even more of a delight to read. There’s not only society’s eternal divide between the rich and poor but there’re also amazing oppositions with love versus obsession and hate, reality and dreams… and I don’t think I’ve ever read a novel that was so much of a love story and a thriller at the same time, working together so brilliantly towards an astonishing ending.The title, The Doll Factory, refers to ‘Mrs. Salter’s Doll Imperium’ where I was introduced to Iris who, alongside her sister Rose (who only plays a secondary role), has to paint doll faces. It doesn’t make her happy though, she wants to put her own heart and soul into what she’s doing. It is Silas, a taxidermist, whose eyes fall on Iris and her beauty first but when he is driven into a corner he tells Louis Frost, a pre-Raphaelite painter, where he can find a new muse to finish his painting. Iris has no aspirations to become a model, an occupation considered as lowly as someone selling her body, but it is a means to make her own dreams come true of making it as a painter herself . Maybe the novel started out a little slow since the blurb already told me how Iris’ life would be changed and I had to wait a while for her to meet Silas and Louis, but once she does the story really picks up and Iris’s new life was as fascinating for me as it was for her. What follows is such a tentative, careful and most courteous love story between Iris and Louis, while Silas’ obsession with Iris only grows and grows and takes on such disturbing proportions it becomes more than worrying. I was perhaps drawn to Iris’ chapters a little more in the beginning, wondering if that obvious connection between them would ever be recognised for what it was, but I was slowly being sucked into Silas’s disturbed world as well. I believe it’s fair to say I loved the first part of the novel most for the romance and the last part for the thrills. I certainly knew it didn’t bode well for Iris and Louis. The more you see them growing towards each other, the bigger my fear and unease grew that Silas would shatter their love spell.The build-up was brilliant and even though I continually thought about the outcome, it was still able to surprise me and be more horrific than what I had in mind. You realise how deranged Silas is through the novel but never as much as in the end.I had some expectations about how it would all pan out but it still managed to be much grittier and darker than I had imagined. The last part turns the story into a real and raw thriller where several authors in the genre could learn from, and without it ever feeling forced. I loved every turn of phrase, gobbled up the fear and felt the squeeze in my gut. I was on the edge of my seat really, it was so high on tension! I knew Iris was a strong and determined girl and I loved how strongly she shows it all through the story. She’s a strong and beautiful character. I did wonder (and doubt) whether she’d be able to get Silas to understand she was not and would never be interested in him though. I cheered her along all the way! If you enjoy historical novels you must pick this one up!
    more
Write a review