I am delighted to share my review for The Doll Factory by Elizabeth Macneal, I have had this book on my TBR since it came out last year and I read it last month. Let me show you what is is all about…
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 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 . . .
I have had this book on my tbr since it first came out last year. I have wanted to read it but kept putting it off until now. I have to say I wasn’t sure what I was expecting and I didn’t read the synopsis until after I had finished the book! To be fair though, even if I had read the synopsis prior to reading I think I would still have been surprised by how dark this book turned.
Let me backtrack, and start with the cover and say that now I have read the book how amazing and so appropriate this cover is, that glass dome encompasses the story perfectly and has a lot of things in it relevent to the story of Iris.
Iris and her sister Rose have been working in a rather depressing and soul destroying business making dolls. When there is a chance for Iris to leave and have the nerve to join an artist as his model, she takes it. Rose isn’t impressed and neither is Silas.
Silas is besotted with Iris, but she doesn’t see him as he thinks she does. He watches her, hoping that she will take him up the various offers her proposes. She however has no time for him, she has her own life and a chance to be something.
Now I did mention this book takes a dark turn, and well to be honest I am not going to tell you why or how even though I am bursting to. The author takes a route that leads its way to this dark thread that is part of the story. It has been done so well, it starts off quite subtly and then worsens over the course of the story. It seems to fit well with the setting.
Now the setting is London, wealth is evident as The Great Exhibition opens so showcase the industry and culture, a place where the who’s who would have been seen. But balanced against that are the slums, side-streets and squalid alleyways where the poor live. This contrast between living conditions, social class and opinions seem to share the ideals behind the various characters. Some wanting to move up, others reluctantly making the most of their lot in life and others just wanting to be accepted.
This is a book that I am so glad I have finally got around to reading, it is a beautifully written book about life in 1850’s London, about life, love, betrayal, art and yes as the synopsis states “obsession and possession”. A fabulous read and one I would definitely recommend.
Elizabeth Macneal was born in Edinburgh and now lives in East London. She is a writer and potter and works from a small studio at the bottom of her garden. She read English Literature at Oxford University, before working in the City for several years. In 2017, she completed the Creative Writing MA at UEA in 2017 where she was awarded the Malcolm Bradbury scholarship.
The Doll Factory, Elizabeth’s debut novel, won the Caledonia Noel Award 2018. It will be published in twenty-eight languages and TV rights have sold to Buccaneer Media.
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