The Doll Factory

Pub Date:   |   Archive Date: 19 Aug 2019

Member Reviews

Talent...Art... obsession...love...poverty...possibility...yearning...Gothic...Victorian

All words which can be used to describe The Doll Factory, a Gothic Victorian tale set in London in 1850.  When Iris, an aspiring artist meets Louis, pre-Raphaelite artist she agrees to model for him in exchange for painting lessons.  She spends her days painting doll faces and years for more. Silas has also met Iris and he has plans of his own - dark plans which lead to obsession.

This is a dark tale that often had me thinking how lucky I am to live in this day and age. 

For me this was a little slow to start but soon things began to pick up as I learned the characters, their nuances, hopes, dreams, and obsessions.  Although this book never completely knocked me off my feet (or reading chair) I enjoyed the Gothic feel and the downward spiral of obsession.  Then there is the ending..hmmm...was I the only one thinking "what happens next?" quickly followed by "what just happened?" I found the ending to be nothing short of abrupt.  The ending had me wanting more but also helped me to what most of the characters in this book were feeling, most wanted more - more teaching, more love, a better life, a better way to survive, to be a family, to have what one covets most.  The setting was fabulous and the characters intense, with a dark, gloomy atmospheric vibe throughout.  

Thank you to Atria books and NetGalley who provided me a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. All the thoughts and opinions are my own.
Was this review helpful?
I really enjoyed the creepy gothic feel of this novel and thought the author did a wonderful job of capturing Victorian London.  Where I did struggle though was that I prefer a book where I feel some connection to the main characters and I unfortunately just didn't feel that with the characters in this book.  Some of the taxidermy scenes were a little too much for me as well.  It's an entertaining read but one that I don't think will stick with me long term.
Was this review helpful?
This book was really eerie and a different read for me.  The characters were all interesting and well developed even though some of them were strange.  I appreciate having the opportunity to read it.
Was this review helpful?
Thank you Atria / Emily Bestler Books for the digital copy in exchange for an honest review! 

The premise of this sounded SO good! I was very excited to get my hands on this one. Unfortunately, I couldn't get through it. I made it to page 100 and I put it down. 

I wasn't a fan of the writing, and there were too many pieces of the story that I cringed at while reading. 
Ex: animal death. 

Silas was just too much for me. He collected dead animals, and did weird things with them. I was very overwhelmed. Iris was probably the only normal character with normal ambitions. I will admit that the characters in the novel were very distinguishable. Good character development.  

I really wanted to love it, and if the author ever writes another book I may give it a shot.
Was this review helpful?
When I first started this book I didn't think I was going to like it because it started off so slow. Over time though I found myself getting so attached to the characters that I was hooked. I couldn't wait to find out what was going to happen and where this story was going. Iris went through a lot of character growth in this story and I really liked following her story along. Her interactions with Louis, a painter, was one of my favorite parts of the story.  The character of Albie was so sweet and I loved his relationship with his sister and how much he cared about her. Silas was so interesting to read from because the way he could take a situation and twist it in his head was fascinating. He is a character very out of touch with reality and the way he could justify things to himself was almost impressive. Macneal did an amazing job writing such well fleshed out characters and I am blown away that she is a debut author. I will definitely be reading more from her in the future.

However, there was an event that happened in this book that I really didn't appreciate at all. In fact, it made me so mad that I wanted to close my kindle and not finish this book. It is a huge spoiler so I am going to be vague but I got so upset because I didn't think it was necessary to the story or plot at all. It felt almost exploitative in the way it messed with my feelings for no reason other than to be shocking. Upon finishing the book I can see why Macneal made the choice that she did but off the top of my head I can come up with three or four different ways she could have achieved the same result. I looked up reviews for this book when I finished and I can't find anyone who mentioned what I am talking about so I'm definitely in the minority with my reaction.
Was this review helpful?
I listened to this book on audio, and I would very much recommend it. My experience with the story was surely elevated by a good narrator, who was capable of imbuing each scene with needed emotional beats and was also very good at giving different characters distinctive voices.

That said, the story itself did not fully captivate me. I enjoyed all of the historical nods, especially all of the stuff with the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood. But the actual mystery/conflict was a little bit formulaic and I was just waiting to reach the conclusion. It felt like I had the information a few chapters before the characters and that was frustrating to me.
Was this review helpful?
I tried a few times but for some reason I just could not get into this book. The first chapter just really put me off and I only mad enough it thru a few chapters before I gave up and eventually moved on to something else.
Was this review helpful?
Unfortunately for some reason I just could not get into this book. The main struggle for me was feeling like I couldn't relate to the characters. Therefore, it was really hard for me to stay invested. I hate to say it, but I only made it through 20% of this book before I had to put it down and pick up something else.
Was this review helpful?
My feedback here is late to the party.  I enjoyed this book, but it was relatively forgettable.  I'd recommend it to others as a quick read.
Was this review helpful?
Unfortunately, this book is not for me.  I have tried to get into it, but never grabbed me.  Being moody reader, likely me, as I didn’t think it was poorly written, which was why I gave a 3 for neutral and will update if later I’m able to finish.
Was this review helpful?
With The Doll Factory being a historical fiction, it makes sense why some of the story sounds familiar as I 
probably read a form of this story a few years ago. This story is creepy as in Silas is a crazy/obsessive man. I think Iris is probably a beautiful woman but people can't look past her malformed collarbone that was broken during birth and wasn't set correctly. The living conditions back in 1851 are horrible especially for women.  All they were good for back then was being a wife. I liked how even though Iris had been knocked down multiple times by her family she got the strength to venture out to do what she truly loved and that was painting. There was some suspense and danger. It was well worth the read
Was this review helpful?
I knew I was going to love this novel when I read that it was perfect for fans of "The Historian" and "The Crimson Petal and the White". Elizabeth Macneal delivered a dark debut full of obsessions, societal expectations, and the inner circle of a group of artists in 1850s London. Full of dirty streets, pubs, prostitutes, and dead animals, Macneal succeeds in achieving realistic depictions of life beyond the beauty of art's creation and display. This gritty historical novel is perfect for readers looking for their next gorgeously creepy read.⁠
Was this review helpful?
When you think of creepy, deranged thrillers, what comes to mind? For me, it’s Stephen King novels, last year’s Baby Teeth, and now, this book!

This one is a slllooooowww burn...as in the action is literally in the last 75 pages. But there was something about the atmosphere and the writing that kept me turning the pages. This may be one of the most messed up books I’ve ever read (yes, maybe even worse than Baby Teeth and that one is seriously disturbing).

I’m not sure what I was expecting, but I got a whole different story. I’m happy to say that this one worked for me, but be aware that there are some very graphic and gruesome scenes. If you’re particularly sensitive to animal cruelty, you may want to skip this one.
Was this review helpful?
So gothic! So darkly creepy-cool! I thoroughly enjoyed this book! 

The story is set in 1850s Victorian London. Iris and her twin sister Rose work at Mrs. Salter's Doll Factory. But Iris wants more...  She isn't content with a life spent painting delicate porcelain dolls. Painting children's playthings or mourning dolls memorializing the dead isn't enough. Iris wants to be a professional artist. She meets two men....one an artist who can help her fulfill her dream and another who will becoming completely obsessed with possessing her.....

Wow.....this book is dark, creepy and unputdownable! Total binge read....I stayed up half the night reading because I had to know what happened! I love old Hollywood movies...especially the gothic style horror movies made in the 50s & 60s. This story reminded me so much of those movies -- like House of Wax (the 1953 version, not the horrible re-make), Fall of the House of Usher, The Raven, etc. As I read, I imagined the movie version in my head.  Silas would be played by Vincent Price, of course, and Peter Lorre as Louis. Made for a great reading experience! I could even imagine the dialogue spoken in those two actors' unmistakable voices. Loved it! 

Some portions of this story depict animal cruelty, mental illness and some disturbing imagery. Be prepared for it...   Parental guidance suggested before allowing younger teens to read this book. Just be aware it has some adult subjects, violent/graphic imagery and some harsh topics -- stalking, murder, etc. 

The Doll Factory is Elizabeth Macneal's debut novel! I will definitely be looking for more from this new author! I see in the book blurb that the television rights have been sold to Buccaneer Media....will definitely be on the lookout for a film version (even if it can't have Price & Lorre!)

**I voluntarily read a review copy of this book from Atria books via NetGalley. All opinions expressed are entirely my own. Warning: Book may cause sleep deprivation in lovers of gothic style horror. Enjoy! :)**
Was this review helpful?
I’m probably not the right audience for this book because I am really tired of “woman-in-jeopardy” stories, especially ones with no surprises. This book has a lot of period detail, all of it dark and some of it completely gross. There is also horrible animal abuse. The plot is completely predictable. From the time the creepy stalker is introduced, you know exactly what’s going to happen. You also know immediately what’s going to happen between the artist and his model and what’s going to happen to the model’s career as a painter. I read to the end, but I needn’t have. I received a free copy of this book from the publisher.
Was this review helpful?
First off, the writing in this book is excellent -- very descriptive and flows well. I was able to visualize everything that was going on, even the paintings and the dolls described, as well as Silas's taxidermy animals. I feel like the author did a lot of research into her time period and subject matter (Victorian time period, painters at that time, painting techniques, taxidermy, the Great Exhibition, The Royal Academy, London, social situations, living conditions, and so much more) and it all shows very well in her writing and story-telling. However, I had a hard time with the story, but that's me personally. I am not really a fan of such dark stories. While it's not a horror book, I felt it was still too dark for my tastes. I wanted some redemption, some happiness, some light. At times, there was, but not enough for my comfort. As such, this book took me quite a while to read because I didn't want to pick it up to feel that heaviness that I got when reading this book. The blurb I read about this book described it as Gothic; and that may be accurate for some readers, but I like the Gothic of "Jane Eyre" and "Dracula" much better than this book, again because of its heaviness. There's animal cruelty, some sexual descriptions (described in a very Victorian manner but yet not at the same time, if that makes sense), violence (not extremely graphic and gory but still heavy and dark), although not really any strong, offensive language/swearing. Still, the feel of the book was just so heavy and depressing that it wasn't really one I loved. I did love and appreciate the author's writing style and descriptions and how well I was able to picture things in my mind from what she wrote. Such mastery of language with characterization and narration for a debut novel is excellent. I felt sorry for Rose and Iris, with the tragedies they experienced in their lives that led to their circumstances, victims of the times and more, Rose devastated from her loss of her lover as a result of her illness and Iris wanting more than being the doll shop apprentice and falling in love with Louis and wanting to become a painter, and Louis's own personal situation. Albie was a lovable street urchin living in horrible circumstances, trying to help his older sister and the simplicity of him just wanting beautiful teeth. Silas is creepy from the get-go, and his past and present slowly draw together and what he's done is revealed and connected as the story goes (although it was obvious to me from the beginning). All of them trying to find happiness, some in twisted ways and others just to get past their circumstances of being born in Victorian London. The ending is left open for the reader to imagine what happens next, though I did want a bit more blatant closure than was given. 

This is not a really negative review from me, because I think there will be people that will love the story line and the dark Gothic/noir feel of the book; it's just that it wasn't my preferred style to read. My stars would be more accurately 4.5-5 stars for the writing and 3 stars for the story itself, so I just gave it an overall rating of the 3 stars.
Was this review helpful?
I mean does the title just not scream 'creepy'? SO amazing though, oh my goodness you all will love this. First time reading from Elizabeth Macneal and I am so happy about it! I hope she writes more because y'all will fall in love with her writing styles and characters.
Was this review helpful?
Those who have followed me for a while will know that it is no surprise that historical fiction is a hit or miss for me. What used to be one of my least favorite genres has moved up in the ranks exponentially in the last year. The Doll Factory has this sprinkle feeling of AHS's Freak Show... I hope those who have read this and watched that get where I'm coming from here! haha

I love the premise of this book. The era, the obsession, the art.. all had this subtle touch of sinister during a time when consumption was the rage and men paid to sleep with the dying. Give me ALL the darkness PLEASE. Unfortunately that's not *quite* what I got. This is definitely a slow burn and I don't know WHY but I kept mixing Iris and Rose up and confusing myself (but to be fair, that's definitely more to do with me than the author).

At the end of the day, the writing really is great - it's just not my particular taste. I wish it actually did get a little bit more dark - even if it was to alter certain characters intentions. The ending I felt like was a segue to something else. But then again, maybe I don't need that reconciliation. I appreciate completely the arcs of these characters and felt the most for Iris and Albie. While this may not have been an exact reader/book match, I think historical fiction readers who enjoy this tempo and that dark London period will absolutely love this story.
Was this review helpful?
Wait haven’t I heard this story familiar? It feels familiar but maybe it’s just because it reminds me of 4 or 5 books I’ve read in the past. Didn’t finish.
Was this review helpful?
"The Doll Factory" didn't really work for me. I had trouble getting into it; neither the writing nor the characters grabbed me. I was disappointed b/c usually this is the perfect book for me, Victorian England, Dickensian, etc.
Was this review helpful?