The Doll Factory

Pub Date:   |   Archive Date: 19 Aug 2019

Member Reviews

So I didn't hate this one.

I actually really loved the last 20% of this book. It was horrifying, well told, a complete page-turner. My problem with this was that the first 80% I found to be pretty boring. I only stuck through to the end because I heard it picked up later on. While I'm glad I read it (the last part was worth it) I can't say I'd read it again if given the chance. 

I loved the setting, the whole Victorian Era and the Great Exhibition was amazing and the setting was horrifyingly beautiful. The character of Silas was very well done and I fell in love with Iris and Louis' love story. 

Things I didn't love:
How long it took for the real story to get going.
The animal cruelty throughout. I know it was part of his character but I just never want to read about that. 
The lack of closure at the end. 

I don't know about this one. It is a good book, maybe just not for me.
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I will start off by saying I don’t read a lot of historical fiction. I’m just not drawn to the stories and I have a hard time staying interested. This was the case for me with this book. I did however, really like the storyline. I just had a hard time reading this one. The writing was great and maybe I’ll try this book again when I’m in a drought and can focus more on this one. Thank you for an advanced copy in exchange for an honest review.
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Two sisters, Iris and Rose, paint dolls for a living. Iris dreams of being an artist, and gets the chance to leave her oppressed working conditions. Rose is jealous, and doesn't want Iris to have a better life than her. The better opportunity is to model for a painter, and in exchange, he will teach her to paint. Meanwhile, Silas, a taxidermist, see Iris and becomes infatuated with her. She is too preoccupied with other things to notice him. That leads to her becoming trapped in his dark obsession.

The setting of 1850s Victorian London is dark and dramatic. Iris's life is bleak, and her journey to improving her life is interesting. She has no support, and takes a big chance by attempting to be an artist. Silas, the man obsessed with Iris, slows descends into madness when Iris rejects his advances. Both make for intriguing characters.

Complex characters in a slow-burning historical thriller. Grim, creepy, and atmospheric.

I received a free digital copy of this book from the publisher via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.
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Thanks to Flatiron for the free copy in exchange for my honest review

3.5/5 stars - rounded up for rating

So I’m a big fan of historical fiction, and if it’s on the darker side, then that’s a winning combination for me! THE DOLL FACTORY by Elizabeth Macneal is set in Victorian London and we are presented with a unique cast of characters, perfectly detailed surroundings, and obsession and desire in multiple forms.

We are introduced to little Albie, a kid living on the streets that collects dead animals for Silas in exchange for money. Albie’s motives are to help him get a full set of teeth and this desire benefits the taxidermist with aspirations of having his own museum of oddities. We also are introduced to twin sisters, Iris and Rose. They work together for the laudanum (contains opium and morphine) addicted Mrs. Slater. Iris paints the china dolls’ faces while Rose clothes them – but Iris doesn’t want to be stuck where she is forever. When her path crosses with artist Louis Frost, she strikes up a deal with him that she’ll model for him only if he gives her painting lessons.

The greatest obsession? Iris and Silas meet, while something easily forgotten by Iris, it began a deep and dark obsession for Silas. She will be his, and he’ll do anything to make that happen. I think that those readers that are expecting an incredibly dark story throughout might leave disappointed. This is a true historical fiction novel, and towards the end is when the suspense, horror, and pacing really pick up. So if you keep that in mind, then I think you’ll enjoy it more. I was kind of hoping for a little more, but it didn’t take away from the reading experience.

Despite the slower pace, the writing is beautiful and fluid. We get a deep character study and I was impressed by how we could connect with this bigger cast and without anyone getting lost or confused. Macneal set the scene perfectly and transported you straight into the Victorian London era. Overall, if you’re a fan of historical fiction, then I would highly recommend picking this one up!
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Thank you, Netgalley, for this arc. The synopsis definitely sounded intriguing, and the writing was overall lovely and transported you to 1850 London. There are some scenes of graphic content, such as animal abuse/deaths so dog lovers especially, go into those parts carefully. I agree with another reviewer where they said not much happens in this book. You knew exactly what was going to happen, in regards to Silas and his obsession. I would have appreciated more of a concrete ending, things explained a bit more. All in all, not bad.
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Thank you to NetGalley, Simon and Schuster, Atria Books and Atria/Emily Bestler Books for the ARC of The Doll Factory in exchange for an honest review. 
I was excited to read this novel due to all the positive reviews.  This novel is set in Victorian England and is about a man who has an obsession with a woman.  The man, Silas, is creepy!!! He is a taxidermist - especially loving  odd creatures - and a killer.  He sees Lily, who has a deformed collarbone, and becomes obsessed with her,, to a dangerous degree.. Lily is oblivious to his attentions.  There is also a tale of romance between Lily and her love of painting and Louis, her mentor.  And, finally, there is a story of love and loss between Lily and her sister, Rose.
The tale is sinister and dark.  It also beautifully illustrates the grittiness of 1850s London.  The author writes very descriptively and you could sense the sounds and smells of the city.  I like how it described the art world, the struggling artists, the Great Exposition in London.  I also liked the descriptive writing about the desperate times and the struggle of the poor. 
#NetGalley #AtriaBooks #AtriaEmilyBestler  #SimonandSchuster #ElizabethMacneal
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~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
I have to say that this book is a combination of odd, creepy, and even a bit disturbing. While it was somewhat what I thought it would be, this author delves into the downtrodden, under belly of Victorian London.

She shows us a world that is scary and creepy. Her descriptions are such that you can just visualize the filth and despair. Desperation and fear abounds in such a matter that you are sucked right into the city, connecting with the characters.

For a first time author, Macneal nails it with her in-depth character development. The odd and peculiar abounds while making this novel unique and engrossing. Silas creeped me out and the reader is kept on pins and needles with knowing what is to come yet not knowing when.

The Doll Factory left me thinking long and hard about whether I enjoyed this book or was just compelled to keep reading. It is captivating! This book stays with you, worming into your psyche and leaving you feeling just a bit creeped out.
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I like books that take place in Victorian England settings. And I also like books about art, so this book grabbed my attention. Pretty impressive for a debut novel.  Books seems well-researched and makes you feel like you are in the middle of a gothic thriller.
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Thank you to Netgalley and the publisher for an advance reading copy of this book. It was a very descriptive story of obsession  Creepy and gothic, the author hooks her readers with the macabre. I give this book a 3.5 out of 5.
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A Doll Factory is the location of this fascinating look at Victorian life through the eyes of both a budding feminist and a serial killer.

Iris is an aspiring artist painting doll faces at Mrs. Salter’s Doll Emporium in 1850s London. Mrs. Salter is a harsh taskmistress especially when in the throes of her legal drug addiction. Iris is by all accounts beautiful except for a skewed collarbone which never set correctly when broken during her youth.

Iris has a brief encounter with Silas, a taxidermist fascinated with “curiosities” such as Iris’. Silas becomes obsessed with Iris and vows to have her.

The Doll Factory has something for everyone. It is a romance, a mystery, and historical fiction. The best part is it is a story of a nascent feminist working against society’s beliefs of a woman’s place. I enjoyed this take on a Victorian serial killer thriller. I think you will too if you like historical fiction. 4 stars!

Thanks to Emily Bestler Books, Atria, and NetGalley for a copy in exchange for my honest review.
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This book feels like it has been written for the shock value of one very morbid and disturbed character. The mutilation of animals for his entertainment was just too much for me and kicked me out of the story so many time. Yet, I persevered to the end. Whew! 

On to the next item that pulled my attention away from the story. It has a constant thread  of feminism in a historical setting woven through out. However, it was distracting as I was constantly wondering the historical accuracy. The believability was incredible low. 

Next, the twin sister codependency was mentioned so much at the the beginning, ad nauseam, only to not be important later on. It invalidates their codependency that gave the main character such an emotional dilemma in the beginning of the book. The character's personality changes so much from the beginning to the end, that it feels like two different charters altogether. The codependency trope was needed for one purposed, to create tension, and forgotten once the story progressed. Then the main characters changes into a strong feminist that no longer needed her twin sister. That is not how codependency works. 

I really wanted to like this book based off of the synopsis, which is why I requested it from Netgalley However, this was a major miss for me. I was expecting a psychologically thriller in a historical setting. Instead I got a sick and twisted man that mutilates animals, a flakey, codependent, twin sister turned feminist, and a man that wants to help a feminist when it is in his best interest. Oh, and the constant reminder that it is set in 1850's Londons.  

If by some chance, you read my review and think this book is for you, go ahead and give it a read. If not, give it a pass. I would not recommend this book at all.
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Rich, atmospheric and imaginative, I easily visualized this book as a movie (Hugh Jackman, please?). Set in the gloom of Victorian England, MacNeal has created three strong yet flawed characters. Beautiful aspiring artist Iris who has walked away from a suffocating life, strange Silas, a taxidermist whose creepiness and obsession with dead critters and Iris ratchets up tension through the final pages, and artist/mentor Louis, the driver behind Iris’s growth as she meets a whole new world. Through the character of Louis, I discovered the secret society Pre Raphaelite Brotherhood, a real-life organized group of young rebellious male artists who banded together in the late1840’s. I was fascinated and upon finishing this story, went on to search more about this group and their mission.
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As a fan of Dickens, I was happy to read and feel that this book was a tad Dickens-light in writing style. Gone were the overly wordy descriptions Dickens used to use (because he was paid based on length) but what remained was still that honest realistic view of life in Victorian times. It sounds odd but I wish Silas' character had been fleshed out a bit more. I would have loved to have met him earlier in his life or had more flashbacks to fully explore what brought him to the point he was at. His mental illness seemed to be a given without a foundation. I was also disappointed with the amount of violence towards animals. It got to be a bit overwhelming. But underneath all this was a good story of obsession.
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Psychological thriller. Dark, gothic. Who knew the art world could be so terrifying ? Didn't love it but it was a good book. Not my usual genre, for fans of this genre I am sure they will absolutely love it.
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Set in London in 1850, the story begins with Iris Whittle and her twin sister Rose painting faces on china heads for a doll maker. But Iris longs to be a real painter and jumps at the chance to be a model for Louis Frost, one of the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood trained at the Royal Academy which includes Gabriel Rossetti. She will earn some money, yes, but the best part of the bargain is he will provide her with painting lessons. What is the cost? Perhaps her reputation and the love of her family. 

The villain of the story is Silas Reed, a taxidermist who has a shop of curiosities. Iris comes to his attention when he notices the deformity of her collarbone. Soon in his sick mind he is convinced she is meant to be his. 

The story is very atmospheric and gothic in flavor; it's well-written with lush descriptions. Iris is a strong character who knows what she wants and is determined to get it. She will need all of her wits about her to avoid Silas' clutches. 

I received an arc of this novel from the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for my honest review. Many thanks.
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The Doll Factory was a wonderfully unique book. While a bit gross in places, I enjoyed the vivid imagery. Silas was a scary antagonist because I think everyone at least knows of someone like that, who feels they are owed something or builds up fantasies to the point where they imagine things are different from reality. Some parts seemed a bit rushed but overall I liked it.
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This book was part historical fiction and part thriller, but I felt it was more thriller than historical fiction. I felt it was an overcooked recipe, with too much ingredients and nothing was mixed properly. The first 100 pages were so difficult to read and there was a particular incident which scared the daylights out of me. I felt so disgusted.
It's a dark take of twin sisters, Rose and Iris. One is scarred by small pox and the other is beautiful. Both work at a doll shop, painting the porcelain faces of the dolls. Rose, at night, secretly practices her art. Iris is tied down and has no clue about moving forward. She becomes a painter's model and is immediately shunned by her family.
Enter Silas, a taxidermist, an extremely disturbed character, who collects odd objects. The animal cruelty scenes were too much for me to take in.

To sum it up, it was a very creepy book. The characters were also made eerie to fit the theme of the book. Add painting doll's faces, the pre Raphaelite brothers, sprinkle in some stalking and kidnapping, some unrequited love and what you get is a horrid tasting dish.
The character building was done tastefully, buy you would get confused about all of them in the beginning when all of them are introduced.
Since this book is set in the 1850's, you would have to put aside your beliefs to a certain degree.
Again I viewed this book with a lot of missed opportunities and extremely haunting. I constantly kept waiting for things to pick up speed. I enjoyed this book in parts and not as a whole. The thriller elements got too predictable at times. I struggled to complete this book. It didn't leave any hope for the characters and they were just meandering somewhere. I only liked the character of Albie, who had a generous heart and who really cared about people.
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Many thanks to NetGalley, Atria/Emily Bestler Books and Elizabeth Macneal for the opportunity to read and review her debut novel - so intriguing!  4.5 stars!

It's London in the 1850s, straight out of a Dickens tale, in the shadow of the Great Exhibition being built. Twin sisters Iris and Rose are working in a shop painting and making clothes for china dolls modeled after pictures of both living and dead girls.  Iris dreams of a different life as an artist; Rose, disfigured from illness, has lost all her dreams.  A street urchin with one tooth, Albie, tries to run errands for various people to collect money to help his sister and to save money for false teeth.  Silas is a taxidermist who wants to have a museum of all his prize collections.  Louis is in a group of artists calling themselves PRB - Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood.  Louis sees Iris and offers her a job as a model for his painting, with the promise of giving her painting lessons on the side.  Meanwhile, Silas sees Iris and becomes obsessed with her.

The writing in this book will transport you back in time.  Such a wonderfully creepy tale - I can't wait to read more from this author!
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DNF
 Painfully slow, I just could not get into this book and at 35% decided not to torture myself any longer.  While I rarely give up on a book and I am a fan of dark and creepy novels, this book was too dark even for me.
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A Haunting, Terrorizing dream-like Dickenesque book. Elizabeth Macneals’s debut novel is set in the squalor, lust and dirt-filled alleys of the Victorian era. I was drawn to this novel just by the photo alone. It is stunning. It gave away nothing of the premise of the novel and I really enjoyed finding out that it wasn’t as beautiful inside as it was outside. The crack, on the bell jar, I simply didn’t see. 

Iris dreams of art, creating it, imagining it and living with paint and charcoal soaked into her skin. Iris’s life is far from the world she sees through her artistic soul. It is dark, colorless and filled with the dreariness that comes from being poor in London. Menaces beyond her control lurk in the alley’s and storefronts just biding their time to jump out and ruin her. 

Iris has a twin, who until she caught the influenza was, beautiful, loved and wanted, the opposite of Iris who was always nagged by her mother, made fun of because of her stature and deformities. Both Iris and her sister work in a doll factory creating faces, dressing and the mundane tasks of getting them ready so that their boss who lives in a haze of drugs, can sell the dolls.  

The characters in this novel are wide in range of peculiarities, Albie a street urchin was my favorite. Read the book and you will see why.  The Antagonist, Silas, well, I am not going to even ruin it for you, again, read the book.

Now the reality of the review: For a debut novel, it has a few pages where you pause wondering what the author was thinking about when she was writing because it is not always clear, not always in fit with the rest of the book. That is the way sometimes with first-time writers. On the whole, this story is fantastic. I just wish it wasn’t so filled with whorehouses, sexual desires and all that goes with those realities of a Gothic novel. 

For this, I give the book 3.5 stars. I can’t recommend this to all my readers knowing full well that some of them are super sensitive when it comes to sex and violence. Yet, I enjoyed the premise of the story, the descriptive twists and turns, and expectations that happen in this novel.

Thank you, Netgalley and Atria Books for the opportunity of reading this debut in lieu of my honest opinion.
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