Blurb: London, 1850. On a crowded street, the dollmaker Iris Whittle meets the artist Louis Frost. Louis is a Pre-Raphaelite painter who yearns to have his work displayed in the Royal Academy, and he is desperate for Iris to be his model. Iris agrees, on the condition that he teaches her to paint. Dreaming of freedom, Iris throws herself into this new life of art and love, unaware that she has caught the eye of a second man. Silas Reed is a curiosity collector; enchanted by the strange and beautiful. After seeing Iris at the site of the Great Exhibition, he finds he cannot forget her. As Iris’s world expands, Silas’s obsession grows. It is only a matter of time before they meet again…
Title: The Doll Factory
Author: Elizabeth Macneal
Publisher: Picador, an imprint of Pan Macmillan
Genre: Fiction, Historical, Suspense, Gothic
This story follows Iris, twin sister, bored seamstress and aspiring artist, on her quest to make more of her life all while something sinister watches her from the shadows…
I absolutely loved this book! I was sucked into the story from the get go and hated having to put this book down. The world building and descriptions had me right there alongside the characters in Victorian London, the sights and the smells leaping from the pages in a way that I adored. The characters were also really well described with their personalities coming through – a prime example of this is Albie, a street urchin with very few teeth, living in squalor yet with a genuine kindness and thoughtfulness for others. Everything felt really well planned out so I didn’t find myself second guessing anything that happened. There’s a delicious gothic edge to this story that comes through in the description which, admittedly, is a weakness of mine and was incorporated perfectly to give the reader the subtle reminder that something sinister is on the horizon.
Without giving any spoilers, the last one hundred or so pages were the absolute stand out for me! It feels like everything that we’ve been waiting for springs into action, the tension ratchets up and Iris’ world is thrown into chaos – the ending is definitely worth the wait!
As for what I disliked about the book, there wasn’t much that I would pick out. I would note that, initially, the story does take a while to really get into the good bits – as soon as we meet Silas it’s obvious that he’s someone that we should watch out for, but he bides his time meaning that I was hoping something would happen sooner. However, this did keep me hooked into the story and desperately reading to find out what would happen so it didn’t ruin my experience of the book at all.
Overall, I genuinely loved this book and would recommend it to anyone to likes historical fiction with a dark edge or who likes to be kept on the edge of their seat!
Have you read this book? Or maybe you’ve read something similar? What did you think? I’d love to know!