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The Doll Factory by Elizabeth Macneal
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The Doll Factory (edition 2019)

by Elizabeth Macneal (Author)

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433398,129 (4)None
Member:bleuroses
Title:The Doll Factory
Authors:Elizabeth Macneal (Author)
Info:Picador (2019), Edition: Main Market, 336 pages
Collections:Your library
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The Doll Factory by Elizabeth Macneal

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What an amazing read this was! I'm not sure what I expected going into it, but I know I did not get anything that I could have imagined. This book took me completely by surprise and pulled me right into the story. The author deftly sets the historical period through her writing and creates really dimensional characters. I don't think I have ever read a book in which I was completely endeared by a character, reveling in the quirks and imagination given by the author, only to have the character so very slowly devolve into a complete monster. This book was so very dark and so very creepy and I really loved every word of it. Warning: there are several disturbing and graphic animal scenes throughout the book. Many thanks to NetGalley and the publisher for allowing me to read this book in advance of publication and my opinion is my own. ( )
  Kathl33n | Jun 3, 2019 |
What a creepy tale is ‘The Doll Factory ‘by Elizabeth Macneal. It is a strange and compelling mixture of creepy taxidermy, the painting of doll’s faces and the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood artists, combined with stalking and kidnapping. I finished it not sure whether I liked it or not. Some parts are beautiful, some are horrifying.
It is London 1850. Queen Victoria is on the throne, the Great Exhibition is being built in Hyde Park and a team of men are searching for wonders to display. Iris and her sister Rose work at The Doll Factory shop, painting personalised faces onto dolls, and sleeping in the attic. They survive but can only dream of having enough money to open their own shop. Iris is desperate to be a real artist. Silas Reed’s Shop of Curiosities Antique and New is popular with Victorian ladies buying dried butterflies and artists wanting stuffed mammals and rodents that can be copied and incorporated into their art. Silas and Iris are linked by Arnie, a young boy who scratches a living by sewing dolls clothes for The Doll Factory, and sourcing recently dead animals for Silas to stuff. When Iris meets Louis Frost, PRB artist, the circle is complete and the threat becomes darker. A two-headed dog, Silas’s most prized handiwork, is selected for display at the Great Exhibition. Meanwhile Iris leaves The Doll Factory to model for Louis, receiving free art lessons from him in lieu of payment. Albie suspects Silas of unnatural interest in Iris and tries to warn her but she doesn’t take him seriously.
I could have done with more of the art, less of the taxidermy and dead animals; but’s that’s just me. It was a long build up to the attack, which made me wonder if this started life as a historical novel about Victorian artists with the distinctly modern psychological thriller narrative layered on top at a later date. But it is a thought-provoking book about the unfairness of poverty and the blithe lifestyle of the rich; about women’s rights and lack of opportunities; and about the power of love and how obsession can turn into possession. The beautiful cover does not hint at the darkness and often gruesome writing inside.
Read more of my book reviews at http://www.sandradanby.com/book-reviews-a-z/ ( )
  Sandradan1 | May 28, 2019 |
Well now, this is something quite special. There's a lot of buzz around this book and rightly so. I thought it was absolutely delicious.

The story revolves primarily around two characters: Iris and Silas. Iris works at Mrs Salter's Doll Emporium, painting dolls' faces and secretly yearning to be a painter in her own right. Silas owns Silas Reed's Shop of Curiosities Antique and New. Honestly, if the shop names alone don't pique your interest I don't know what will. Silas is a rather disturbing young man with his shop full of stuffed creatures. He's a collector and when he becomes a little too interested in Iris it seems that she'd better watch her back.

This is Victorian fiction at its best. I'm finding myself more and more interested in the era and the very eclectic feel of it. Iris finds herself being asked to model for one of the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood, Louis Frost, and I really loved seeing her transformation from a girl who had little future to one who had the brightest of possibilities.

Make no mistake about it, this is a novel with darkness at its core, but it's also so joyous in places and so uplifting. The author has combined fact (we know the PRB existed, the Great Exhibition takes place within the story) with fiction (Louis Frost is an invention) brilliantly and seamlessly.

From the first page, when Silas is stuffing a dove and making up a back story of attacking cress sellers for it, this book took me on a wonderful journey through Victorian London.

"'There! he exclaims, leaning back and pushing his hair out of his eyes. 'And perhaps this'll teach you a lesson for knocking that bunch of greens out of that little girl's arms.'"

When Iris finds herself embedded into the group of artists she is able to paint like she never has before. She's a very strong woman and it was wonderful to see her rise up from her predicted future and become even stronger. I loved this passage from when she is having her first lesson with Louis and she's coming alive in her new world:

"She glances at the colours before her - emerald green, ultramarine, madder and gamboge. It is like being handed a toffee pudding after months of gruel."

The title of this book is very clever and the meaning only really struck me when I'd finished reading. The main characters are fascinating and so well-drawn (one feisty, one creepy) but there is a cast of supporting characters that flesh out the story perfectly and Macneal's descriptions of them are just fabulous.

The Doll Factory is absolutely fantastic. I savoured every word, part of me wanting it to last forever and the other part wanting to know what was going to happen. It's evocative and atmospheric, the smells and sounds of the city come through in the writing, and I was fully immersed in the story. Wowee, it's a stunner! ( )
1 vote nicx27 | May 2, 2019 |
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