The Doll Factory

Pub Date:   |   Archive Date: 19 Aug 2019

Member Reviews

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
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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.⁠
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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 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.
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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 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! :)**
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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.
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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.
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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.
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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.
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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.
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"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.
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Part thriller, part historical fiction, this is a story about love and obsession, told against the backdrop of The Great Exhibition of 1851 in London.  Much of the historical background is true, and many of the characters are actual historical figures.  I found myself looking up quite a few names, not to mention wombats.  
Told from three points of view, the characters could've come straight from a Dickens novel.  There's a wonderful sense of place and time created by Macneal's descriptions of the streets and homes of London.  Backstories are revealed slowly, teasing the reader with just enough detail to keep us guessing as to just how twisted one of the characters really is.  Alternately heartbreaking, horrifying, and hopeful, I very much enjoyed reading this one - it was an excellent debut novel, and I'll be very much interested in reading whatever Elizabeth Macneal comes out with next.
My thanks to Netgalley and Atria Books for providing a copy for an unbiased review.
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This was quite a creepy novel set in Victorian London.  It has the makings of a very good read, but I must admit that it just wasn’t for me.  With that being said, I’m sure that others will really enjoy this story.   I appreciated the opportunity to receive an advance reader’s copy of this book.
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To say that I was exited to get this book in the mail is an absolute understatement. I actually squealed in excitement when I opened this book up!

The cover is magical and haunting and the summary sounded like something I was absolutely going to sink my teeth into immediately! Victorian England, creepy stalkers, and all sorts of disturbing gothic devices were promised in the summary.

I could hardly contain my excitement. I was ecstatic to read this one and cracked it open almost immediately and what awaited me in the pages was a dark and disturbing story in addition to creepy dolls.


In 1850s London, the Great Exhibition is being erected in Hyde Park and, among the crowd watching the dazzling spectacle, two people meet by happenstance. For Iris, an arrestingly attractive aspiring artist, it is a brief and forgettable moment but for Silas, a curiosity collector enchanted by all things strange and beautiful, the 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 beyond her wildest dreams—but she has no idea that evil is waiting in the shadows. Silas has only thought of one thing since that chance meeting, and his obsession is darkening by the day.

“A page-turning psychological thriller” (Essie Fox, author of The Somnambulist) that will haunt you long after you finish it, The Doll Factory is perfect for fans of The Alienist, Drood, and The Historian. (Summary from Goodreads)


This book was recommended to fans of The Alienist and Drood as well as The Historian. I loved The Alienist and didn’t care for Drood so based on that I was hoping that this book wouldn’t land in the middle. I thought this book might be a bit more historical fiction with a little romance in it, but this was definitely more of a historical psychological thriller with heavy gothic influence.

This book did have romance in it, but no in the classical way one thinks of historical romance. This romance was more obsessive and focused on the darker side of that obsession. Though darker in nature I enjoyed the way this story unfolded and it wasn’t the pleasant comfortable story one is used to reading. This book was surprising in lots of ways and it often made me uneasy in reading but I was hooked on Macneal’s prose and story. I couldn’t get enough of this one with it’s dark plot!

This is Macneal’s debut novel but I would never have guessed that reading this book. The story was sophisticated and interesting focusing on big themes like the role of women and the darker sides of London and its lower classes. Plus the dialogue was on point, it was which with atmosphere, and her historical research evident! The Victorian era is often remembered as glamorous and elegant, but books like this remind people that this era might have been that for the blue bloods but for the average person, life was definitely not glamorous.

The only thing that I thought was a little frustrating was that it was a bit of a slow burn rather than a quick page turner. This is a book that you are meant to savor rather than rush through. This book definitely needs to be on your radar for the fall. It’s a fabulous read and if you love creep historical fiction, you need this book on your self!

Book Info and Rating

Hardcover, 368 pages
Published August 13th 2019 by Atria/Emily Bestler Books (first published May 2nd 2019)
198210676X (ISBN13: 9781982106768)
Free review copy provided by publisher, Atria Books, in exchange for an honest review. All opinions are my own and in no way influenced.
Rating: 4.5 stars
Genre: historical fiction, thriller, horror, gothic
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I could not finish this book. Believe me I tried. I would have to cleanse my mind after a disturbing passage and read a book or two before going back. But I kept running into so many disturbing passages that I just no longer wanted to come back to it. I had to give one star for this review, if not I would not have given any stars. 

I want to thank Net Galley and the author for allowing me an advanced copy but this book just wasn’t for me.
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This is clever and could have been a good slow burn thriller, but the excessive animal cruelty ruined the book for me. It felt gratuitous and made me sorry I read it. 

It’s a shame, because the atmospheric build here really had some potential, but thrillers that get unnecessarily nasty always feel like they’re just going for shock value or compensating for plot issues. This was a good enough story that it didn’t need to compensate that way, so the whole thing just felt gross.
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The Doll Factory takes us back to 1850 London and introduces the reader to a wide array of fascinating characters.  At the center of the story are twin sisters Iris and Rose, who toil under the watchful eye of Mrs. Saulter painting china dolls.  The beautiful Iris dreams of being an artist.  When Iris meets pre-Raphaelite painter, Louis, she agrees to be his model in return for art lessons, thus escaping the oppressive doll store.  Along the way, we also meet Silas, an incredibly creepy taxidermist, and Albie, a street urchin who sometimes collects dead animals for Silas.

All of the characters are beautifully written and developed. Author Macneal deftly creates an atmospheric mid-century London that absorbs the reader.  The storyline is strong, the characters are interesting, and the writing is stellar.

Thanks to NetGalley and Simon & Schuster for providing me an advance copy in return for an honest review.
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I was genuinely surprised, in the best way, by this novel. It is exactly what I want a gothic Victorian novel to be - creepy, macabre, engaging, and raw. I was drawn into the world that Elizabeth Macneal painted across the pages, and found myself thinking about these characters long after I left the book. I was definitely offput by the intense descriptions of dead animals, but that didn't retract from my overall strong engagement with the storytelling.
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The Doll Factory tells the story of a woman who runs away to become an artist's model with dreams of becoming an artist, and is stalked by a creepy taxidermist and, really, that's all there is to this book. Though the Victorian London setting was skillfully rendered, the beautiful pieces of The Doll Factory never quite came together.
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The Doll Factory by Elizabeth Macneal is set in Victorian London at the time of the Great Exhibition. A shopgirl, Iris wants to make her place with aspirations as an artist. These aspirations are unachievable to a girl in her place in the world. A taxidermist, Silas, has taken a liking to her and has her in his sights. 

Iris currently works with her twin sister Rose in Mrs. Salter's Doll Emporium doing sewing and painting of doll faces. Rose contracted smallpox while Iris did not thus Rose to have scars on her face that keeps her from wanting to go out and do things even meeting a man. So to her, her life consists of staying where she is at whereas Iris wants to become a painter.

Silas, a misfit whose life consists of stuffed animals, sometimes not very well. He gets his animals from an orphan, Albie. He has brought a two-headed dog to Silas that he wants to enter into the Royal Acadamy. His attraction to Iris has taken to him stalking her.

Iris happens to meet Louis, he wants her to model for him and she wants him to teach her how to become a painter, thus begins a friendship that turns into an affair. She does eventually paint a picture that is entered at the Royal Academy along with a few by Louis. She does not know though the dangers that confront her so she is basically unawares when her life is in danger from Silas and she walks right into a trap.

This book gives a reader into the life of Victorian London, the artist's life, the mean streets of London, the harshness of the people on the streets. This book is a gothic thriller with beautiful, graphic if not gruesome descriptions of life in Victorian London. The characters of Rose, Iris, Albie, Louis, and even Silas were well written. I almost felt sorry for Silas, almost, when reading about his earlier life with his childhood friend Flick. 

I love a good thriller and this one was a pleasure to read! Read it in a few sittings!
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dnf, i really want to try this book again one day but now is truly not the time. this was slow and confusing for me
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