The Doll Factory

The Doll Factory

The 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 str...

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Title:The Doll Factory
Author:Elizabeth Macneal
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Edition Language:English

The Doll Factory Reviews

  • Emma

    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.

  • Ova - Excuse My Reading

    Review soon

  • Maureen

    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 *

  • Paromjit

    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.

  • Nadia

    Set 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

    Set 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.

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