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.
A brilliantly dark tale of art, love and obsession.
A few months back I was browsing Netgalley (as you do) and I came across The Doll Factory. Now, if that title doesn’t just scream ‘creepy’ to you, then the cover definitely will. The illustration is gorgeous and just oozes with artistic charm, but it also speaks volumes about the story inside. Whilst I see beautiful artwork, I also see a girl who appears to be trapped and caged inside a glass dome.
When I started reading it, I expected to experience that creepy feeling, but it wasn’t immediate. The author leisurely lulls you into the story and the characters lives. Iris lives quite an unremarkable existence. She works everyday, with her sister, in The Doll Factory painting china dolls and creeping downstairs at night to secretly paint. She dreams of cultivating her skills, becoming an artist and leaving her dreary existence behind. She feels trapped and wants a taste of freedom. I truly can relate to Iris, haven’t we all felt the same?
The story seems quite innocent until we meet Silas. His character almost instantly gave me chills and for good reason. Silas is a taxidermist and his shop is filled with an abundance of creatures big and small. If this was just his occupation then it would be quite tame, but it isn’t just a way to make a living, it’s his life. Silas obsesses over every single piece that he makes, painstakingly so, until it’s perfect. The way in which he thinks is truly frightening and it only becomes darker and darker. The moment he set eyes on Iris, I knew.
There are a few other characters that perfectly depict the time in which the story is set. Like little Albie whom I just adore. He’s a homeless boy along with his older sister whom is a working girl. My heart ached for the pair and their story really added to the essence of the book and the horrendous things that befell homeless children in the 1800’s.
The book is written beautifully and contains all of these exquisite artistry details, some of which I couldn’t 100% follow, but I got the idea. I could tell that the themes had been researched thoroughly and the book written with passion, care and love.
I loved the snippets of romance and heartbreak, which was given in just the right amounts and did not take away from the dark themes of the story. The book felt both lengthy and short at the same time, but I whizzed through it within hours.
I would highly recommend giving this book a read, I wasn’t entirely sure on how I would feel about it, but it was a brilliantly dark tale of art, love and obsession.
Find The Book
The book is due to release on May 2nd 2019
I’d like to thank Netgalley and Pan Macmillan for sending the book my way in return for an honest review.
I hope you enjoyed! Until next time ❣