The Doll Factory

Pub Date:   |   Archive Date: 19 Aug 2019

Member Reviews

Historical fiction based in the 1850s, Elizabeth Macneal's debut book is a dark gothic thriller. The book moved a bit slow for me at the beginning but  picked up steam. This book is a mix of fact and fiction, dark and artistic. Macneal is a great story teller and pulls you into the characters and their lives in the Victoria era.
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Reminiscent of THE COLLECTOR and YOU, this novel is hypnotic, dark, brooding and oh so good! I was immediately sucked into the story as--even though I'm not usually a fan of Victorian fiction--the characters of Iris, Louis, Silas, and street urchin Albie were so well-drawn and interesting that I couldn't pull myself away. I know next to nothing about the world of art so this too was a fascinating draw for me. Iris is chosen by Louis to model as the Queen for his painting in exchange for her own art lessons. All appears to be well until Silas, the obsessive taxidermist focusses his attention on Iris and decides he must possess her after she rebuffs his advances. The prose is poignant and witty, the locations vividly drawn, and the dialogue captures the Victorian era so well you can picture it perfectly. This novel NEEDS to be made into a movie! Macneal has managed to address history, art, love and obsession, all the while painting the picture of the disparities and inequalities of the Victorian era as well as Iris's desire to overcome the male-dominant perceptions and become a woman worthy of attention for her own talents and desires.
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This book is set in 1850’s London, and it follows the tales of several different characters. The character development was very well done even though it was easy to get confused about who was who in the beginning! It is a dark and twisty tale of an unrequited love but Silas and a tale of personal growth for Iris and all of the others in between. This book isn’t my normal genre but it was still a good read.
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The title is a bit misleading as not much of the story takes place in the doll factory where the main character, Iris, works. Set in Victorian era London, The Doll Factory is dark and depressing, both in the central plot about a man obsessed with a woman he barely knows, and the descriptions of the miserable conditions many Londoners faced during this period- waste and garbage in the streets, throngs of homeless children, and just a general gloom that hangs in the air. The writing is what makes The Doll Factory-it's almost hypnotic in its intensity. The Doll Factory is infatuation taken to a deadly extreme- Silas, the man obsessed with Iris is deeply disturbed, and behaves in unspeakably inhumane ways towards both people and animals. Think Glen Close in Fatal Attraction-then multiply it by 100- and you have The Doll Factory.
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To be honest, this is not my favorite genre. However, it is well written and very well researched. The story is written in the present tense and the plot takes place in London in the 1850s. There are a lot of characters and at times it became confusing. A strange mixture of crime and romance.
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This is a deeply atmospheric tale with a surprisingly modern premise: creepy dude becomes obsessed with a woman he does not know and becomes violent when she does not return his affections. 

I certainly saw parallels between Silas in this book and modern Internet stalkers/"incels" who create elaborate fantasies in their minds about women, projecting all of their hopes and dreams onto imaginary romances only to find that reality in no way matches up. In that respect, this was a very timeless story. These "Doll Factory" characters may lack indoor plumbing and modern conveniences, but they still have the same emotional foibles as people today.

I guess, based on the premise of this book, I had some expectation on how this book would read. In some cases, those expectation were wrong. 

First, I had thought the story would focus way more heavily on Silas' obsession with Iris. When in reality that "relationship" was merely an element of the book. Instead, the bulk of the story revolved around Iris' journey of self-discovery and relationship with Louis, an editorial choice I really appreciated. 

Secondly, given Silas' occupation, I had expect that this book would be way more gruesome that it was. To be clear, Silas was still a very sick man, and there ARE gruesome discussions about snot/poop, etc, but this certainly isn't a gothic horror tale. 

Two final words on the story...

First, I must give a shout out for my very favorite character Albie, the one-toothed street urchin who is just trying to be a good human. In my opinion, he's the heart of this story and added a lot of depth to the narrative.   

Secondly, what's with these covers? Neither of the versions posted on Goodreads seem to capture the vibe of the story I read. Seems like just sticking a hodgepodge of elements under a bell jar, when clearly it's about sticking a WOMAN under there (or at least a mouse dressed up to look like her).  

Thanks to the author and NetGalley for granting me the opportunity to read this book in exchange for an honest review.
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Two people meet up during the 1800's in London yet for all intense purposes it's not a meeting of the minds as it becomes dark rather quickly.
Iris is an attractive young artist who runs into Silas a man with an obsessive streak.
When Iris is approached to model she is surprised but elated as her only request is to learn how to paint.
Her world is growing leaps and bounds but she has no idea that evil and darkness lurks nearby.
Rose and Iris are of course sisters who worked for Madame Salter however she never thought she'd fall in love with Louis the man teaching her to paint much to the dismay of Silas who kidnaps the ladies.
For me the entire book was very odd in providing that feeling that you're unsure whether what you read was correct or misunderstood.
So for that reason I gave it a lower score as even in the ending with the epilogue I still was unsure of their rescue.
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I have one word for this book, ODD (or weird, strange, or any other synonym) 
It was a bit confusing at times as the characters seemingly had different nicknames depending on who was talking about them. 
Rose and Iris are sisters working for the mysterious and strict Madame Salter. Iris receives a job offer from Louis Frost that she simply cannot refuse, become a model for him and in return, he will teach her to paint. She becomes infatuated and eventually falls in love with Louis, much to the dissatisfaction of Silas, a local town "creep' as I will affectionately refer to him as. Silas is obsessed with dead things. He is also obsessed with Iris and wants her as his own. He eventually kidnaps Iris and both Rose and Louis race to find her. 
The one big problem I had with this book is that I felt it to be unfinished. The ending was just as odd as the rest of the book, and honestly I had no idea if Iris was truly rescued or not. The epilogue really did not clear it up either. 
It is a great read for those who enjoy the unusual (and historic) type fiction but if you are more into the modern romance/drama type novel this book is not for you
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The author sets her story in the London of the 1850's.  She sets it very well describing the city at that time with both all it's problems and also it's attractions.  She  does an excellent job of presenting the persona involved with their distinct personalities and their reactions to their own time. The Great Exhibition, a huge hall, is being erected in 1850 in London to showcase as many of the symbols of life at the time, as well as objects that might illustrate the future.  Among the exhibitions are portraits done by the artists of the day. The building has an important part to play in the events depicted in the novel.
     Iris is a young lady that due to her background and lack of money works in a shop making items for the woman in charge.  Her sister Rose works with her.  As the novel begins Iris goes to the grounds of the Great Exhibition to have a look at this marvel.  In passing she bumps into Silas whose forte is obtaining either by purchase or killing: birds and other animals, mounting them and selling them to artists to use as models in their paintings.  Iris forgets the encounter, but Silas imagines that she fell in love with him at that moment. Silas is a psychopath with these tendencies beginning during his early life when he fantasized that a girl he knew was secretly in love with him.  When she didn't respond to him he lured her away from their area and in a secluded woods killed her.
     Iris delivers an order from her shop to an artist named Louis Frost.  He is struck by her beauty and asks her to model for him.  Iris consents but indicates as part of her terms that Louis teach her to paint as well as paying her for the time.  The artist later notes that Iris has the talent to become a first class artist, and also falls in love with her; an action reciprocated by her.
     The novel is dedicated to describing the interactions between the three people.  It is extremely well done and while the ending is a direct output of the actions of the characters and not a surprise it provides a good read with the desire instilled to buy more books by Elizabeth Macneal.
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Review Copy

Much more historical fiction with a horror/thriller/romance twist, THE DOLL FACTORY was at once engaging as well as a reminder that the past may not be a good time to return to.

Set in London in 1850, we are reminded what it is like to be truly poor and repressed. To be completely under male domination. And to have no modern day 'luxuries' such as education or bathroom facilities. But for the daring young woman willing to risk losing all respectability, there could be a chance for more than mere drudgery.

Elizabeth Macneal tells a tale so rich and vivid one can smell the stink of the Thames on a windy day. Her research was impeccable, her use of language of the time spot on. This was a long slow burn novel where the reader really got a chance to get to know the characters. Anyone who likes historical fiction in particular will want to snap this up.
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Thank you NetGalley and Publisher for this early copy!

I went into this blind, mainly picking it up because of the stunning cover and with hesitation because I tend to avoid historical fiction. I was surprised at how quickly I devoured this novel, which is a mix of a thriller and character driven novel I will be looking out for more novels by this debut author in the future! 

4.5 Stars Out of 5 Stars, my full review will be up closer to the release date.
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Let me start out by saying I do not read Victorian novels.  I was backdoored into reading this one and once I started it, I could not leave it.  Iris and Rose are twins.  Iris’s clavicle was dislocated during birth and became a permanent disfigurement.  Rose was beautiful and then contracted smallpox and became scarred.  Her gentleman friend abandoned her at that time and both girls were apprenticed to a woman who manufactured porcelain dolls.  Rose, who now detested Iris and blamed her for their circumstances, felt life had put her where she belonged.  Iris longed to become a painter.  Louis, and a group of young men, were artists and called themselves the Pre-Raphealite Brotherhood.  They were just coming into their own.  Silas, the other man in the novel, was a taxidermist and sold his works to the artists and others who “appreciated” his work.  The novel tells, in an exceptional and captivating manner, of these people meeting and their lives becoming intertwined in a variety of ways.  It is remarkable.  Thanks to Net Galley and Simon and Schuster for an ARC for an honest review.
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This was a good book. The time pried, the historical  detail is phenomenal! A unique and unforgettable story. It's immersive with such vivid detail and the characters are beautifully crafted. What a debut!
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Loved this marvelous Victorian gothic novel. Oh that Silas, what a character.,Really fleshed out so well. I loved all the little details of the time period and of artists painting. Nicely researched and it shows.

I don't know if this is really a quick read or if its because you turn the pages so fast because you can't wait to see how everything turns out. Supurb and creepy.

Really enjoyed this immensely.
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Thank you Netgalley for the opportunity to preview The Doll Factory by Elzabeth Macneal.
I would call this a horror story and it would make a great movie.

The author takes the reader back in time so you have to suspend your beliefs to some degree.  Two young women are basically slaves - they both perform artistic tasks for a rich woman.

But then one is taken in by a painter and things really splatter on the canvas.  

Good Book.  Different - haunting.
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I finished this book in one day because I couldn't tear myself away from it...it was THAT good.  THE DOLL FACTORY is everything I love in a good novel - propulsive storyline, dimensional, faceted characters, and a dark and gritty historical setting.  It reminded me a great deal of Edward Carey's LITTLE, which was one of my top 10 books of 2018.  This is an incredible story you shouldn't miss!
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Thank you for the publisher for sending me an ARC of this book.
Personally speaking, I couldn't get into the book because of the time period was set so far back.  This story isn't for me but I'm sure someone else might enjoy it.
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This novel is a gripping Victorian gothic page turner. I loved all the well-twined story threads throughout. It was equally creepy as well as inspiring, though I wished the ending was less vague and more questions answered.
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What an amazing read! I didn’t realize how suspenseful it would be. It was a wild, gripping thriller, that I never saw coming! I seriously couldn’t put it down! 

I voluntarily read and reviewed an advanced copy of this book. All thoughts and opinions are my own
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A delicious creepy dark psychological thriller Set in the Victorian era perfect setting characters that will shock it drew me in kept me turning the pages.So unique so original the author writes so beautifully even in the most horrifying story.Highly recommend #netgalley #atriabooks.
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