The Doll Factory

Pub Date:   |   Archive Date: 19 Aug 2019

Member Reviews

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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Even though I liked the characters - Silas and Iris are well constructed and complex characters -  I struggled with the story itself. At some point, it feels like it is dragging itself. And it also becomes a little bit predictable. So it's more like a Victorian suspense that is not actually a suspense since you kind of know what is going to happen. All in all, it's not a bad book, and it is interesting to learn how miserable the life of the poor class was compared to the rich back in the 1800s.
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This is my first venture into gothic/historical fiction from the Victorian era but I was so intrigued by this book! The imagery was so strong that I had a hard time believing Elizabeth Macneal is a debut author. I look forward to more from this author. Something I loved was that I was able to picture works of art that I’d never seen before with almost complete accuracy. The Doll Factory makes me want to pack a bunch of books and head to Hyde Park, London. 

I received an advance copy. All thoughts are my own.
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The Doll Factory is a chilling tale set in Victorian London that follows one woman and the delusional man who believes he loves her. In her debut, MacNeal vividly describes how brutal and harsh life was for people of much lesser means and shows the limitations and abuse many women faced at the time.

But ...

I struggled with this book. The story is predictable and when I stop to think about it, not much happens plot-wise. The build-up progresses at a sluggish pace, taking most of the book and when we finally get some tension, the big scene is over rather quickly followed by a quick ending. Slow go - then, BAM!, you're done! That's not satisfying.

There's the main story of Silas the creepy stalker but there are no smaller sub plots to keep things interesting unless you count the artist story line/romance which I found to be rather dull. There are also some cringeworthy, macabre descriptions of taxidermy and graphic animal cruelty scenes so reader, be warned.

With its historical fiction/suspense vibe in its blurb, I thought this book would be perfect for me, but it felt like the author was trying too hard. Graphic scenes felt placed for shock value when time should have been spent on a more detailed plot and better character development.

Disclaimer: My sincere thanks to Atria Books for providing me with an advanced, complimentary digital copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.
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Happy pub day to The Doll Factory! Thank you @atriabooks and @netgalley for my digital copy!
This book was not quite what I expected, but I really enjoyed it! It's a "thriller" but it's definitely a slow burn one. As the story progresses, the tension and suspense gradually build. Imagine if Joe from You by Caroline Kepnes met Norman Bates from Psycho, and the story was set in 1850's London. Silas, one of the main characters, is a taxidermist, and when he has a chance meeting with the beautiful Iris, he becomes obsessed with her. Just imagine if he could preserve her until the end of time. And of course, Iris has absolutely no idea. How creepy is that?! The Doll Factory is intriguing and creepy, and if you are looking for an "intoxicating story of art, obsession, and possession" then I would recommend this one. 4 stars!
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This one had a bit of a slow start for me and didn't quite grab me from the beginning. I thought I was going to lose interest in it but I kept reading and I would say that by the last half of the book it started to pick up for me. Not my usual historical fiction book. It was creepy, dark and disturbing, but I'm actually glad I stuck with it as the ending was a nail biter!

Thank you to the publisher and NetGalley for the review copy.
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This book takes place in London in the 1850's, during the time the Great Exhibition was being held in Hyde Park.  Iris, who worked with her sister Rose painting faces on porcelain dolls wanted to become a real artist.  She catches the attention of Louis, who is a member of the PRB (Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood), and he convinces her to quit her job and come be his muse in exchange enough money to get a room of her own and he would also give her art lessons.  Iris also attracts the attention of Silas, who is a mentally unstable curiosities dealer.  Silas becomes fixated on Iris and becomes determined to add her to his collection.
I could not put this book down.  It was fascinating.  It was so well written I felt as if I was actually there.  Towards the end of the book I was on the edge of my seat.  I highly recommend this book!
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The Doll Factory was such a mind trip to read. It was filled with all the trappings of a morbidly twisted and thrilling story. Iris is a shop girl, painting faces on dolls day in and day out. She dreams of a better life for her and her twin sister Rose but cannot fathom a way out of this life for them. 

Silas is a taxidermist and a collector of oddities and curiosities with a store that serves those with better fortune. Silas is introduced to Iris and thus begins his obsession with the girl with the crooked collar. 

Louis is an up and coming pre-Raphaelite artist and when he first glimpses Iris he just knows she must be his model and his Queenie. Iris agrees but on the condition he teaches he how to paint and better her skill in hopes to someday support herself and her sister.

Little does the pair know that lurking in the shadows is a man whose obsession is steadily growing by the day and nothing and no one will get in his way to having his hearts desire: Iris.

**Received ARC through NetGalley. Voluntarily reviewed**
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I received an ARC of this book to read through NetGalley in exchange for a fair review.  The Doll Factory is Elizabeth Macneal’s debut novel and it was released in England in May of 2019.
She does a masterful job of telling the story of Iris Whittle who has been apprenticed by her parents to work in a doll shop with her twin sister who was badly scarred by smallpox. Spending her days in making dolls and painting the china faces Iris dreams of becoming an artist. When Louis Frost a fictional member of the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood asks her to be his model she agrees provided that he teaches her to paint. The juxtaposition of the lightness that is Louis and the darkness that is Silas a very creepy taxidermist who is obsessed with Iris makes this a book that I most definitely did not read before bedtime. Iris was everything one could wish for in a heroine, her strength, her kindness and her determination to succeed when the odds are all stacked against her. I enjoyed this book very much and do recommend it for those who enjoy thrillers and gothic novels.  Mild Steam. Publishing Date August 13, 2019 
#NetGalley #TheDollFactory #AtriaBooks #EmilyBestlerBooks #ElizabethMacneal #GothicNovel  #Bookstagram
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A historical mystery that is set in the victorian era. I was hesitant initially to try this one considering I don't normally read historical fiction.

The story was really hard for me to connect with in the beginning and was really slow moving. I would say it slowly started to pick up for me around 55 percent. 

I do have to say that I really loved Iris from the start and her dark side! :) Iris is a young girl that works in the doll factory who is striving to become an artist. Iris soon meets Silas who becomes quite obsessed with her. 

After Silas and Iris form an interesting relationship... the book turns quite a dark corner. 

I liked this book but the pacing made it really hard to get through and felt like the book was extremely too long. There were a few characters/situations that I felt weren't necessary to the book and could have been cut out. 

Overall, 3 stars for me.

Thank you so much to Netgalley and Atria for the arc in exchange for an honest review.

Publication date: 8/13/19
Published to GR: 8/12/19
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Not something I would have normally been drawn to, so I’m thankful for the ARC straight from the publisher.
Well crafted gothic thriller that definitely held my attention all the way through. I'll be keeping an eye out for more from this author.
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It wasn't exactly what I expected but still it was an interesting story! have to say that this book is a combination of odd and creepy!There are three main memorable characters in this novel but also the secondary are great and they play an important role to the story! It was scary and dark!I find it very unique!
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I liked The Doll Factory, it was a good read. A bit creepy and gross at times but the story was good and I found the characters true to this time period. This Psychological thriller set in the Victorian era will leave you feeling a bit disturbed by the character Silas Reed who is the proprietor of his shop called Silas Reed's shop of Curiosities Antique and New. Iris and Rose who are twin sisters will peak your interest. I liked the Artist's rendering and the ending of the story.
#TheDollFactory #NetGalley
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Hmm.

This book is set in Victorian England. There's no high society here, these are the streets of Victorian England, where children starve in the streets and you can buy a set of false teeth for two guineas, plucked straight from the mouths of dead soldiers. This is not glamour. 

Iris and her twin sister Rose work in a doll maker's shop, painting the porcelain and sewing outfits. The shop owner is a miserable old crone, and both women dream of escaping and opening their own shop. Iris was born with a broken collarbone that never healed right, so Rose was always the beautiful one. Until smallpox took her eye and her beauty. 

A chance meeting on the street brings Iris into the sights of Silas, a taxidermist who dreams of fame and prestige. He's a collector, and once he sets his sights on Iris, he'll have her no matter what. 

It's through Silas that Iris is introduced to Louis, a painter who begs and pleads to get Iris to be a model for his latest painting. It is only after she wrangles a promise to teach her to paint that she agrees, and this opens doors and opportunities that Iris never could've dreamed of. Her life is finally coming together. 

Except for that whole Silas thing. 

I took a bit of a break from thrillers after going through a series of clunkers at the beginning of the year. It's hard when a genre you love so much becomes over saturated with the same old story lines, to the point where nothing surprises you anymore. 

This is definitely unique. And the tension is beautifully built. 

So, what is my problem here?

I'm having a hard time putting my finger on exactly what bored me about this book. When the tension is there, it's rich and heavy. It's easy to become attached to these characters, to Iris with her dreams and Albie with his sweet, caring spirit and feisty mouth. You detest Silas, and want very much to beat him with a club, and you're waiting, waiting, waiting, to see what he is going to do. 

But when the lulls happen, they are....deadly. They easily drag the story down until you can claw your way back up to the top and keep going. 

If you're a fan of Victorian-era stories, and you like a good thriller, I think this is absolutely perfect for you.
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For me, if I’m able to root for the main character, then I’m hooked. I loved Iris and I couldn’t put this book down! It was a fantastic, creepy, gothic read! Perfect.
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Silas....you freak.

The Doll Factory evokes a certain feeling - like the first time you read Wuthering Heights. You feel the oppressive fog and darkness. Set in Victorian London - we meet a cast of characters, including - Silas - a creepy artist/taxidermist. Iris, a young woman with a small deformity, who works with her twin sister, painting dolls. Painter Frost wants Iris to be his model and Silas wants Iris to be his. 

And....boy, does he.

This book is a slow burn. There aren't fast paced turns and twists, it's subtle. It's gothic and Victorian. It's a book that could have been written 200 years ago.

Thanks to NetGalley and the publisher for the opportunity to read and review this book
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THE DOLL FACTORY mixes historical fiction with horror to create one of the most disturbing books I’ve read this year. While there were a few parts of the story that dragged a bit, I loved the writing style, the tone, the plot, and the characters.
 
The story focuses on twin sisters, Iris and Rose. Iris feels like she is wasting her life away painting faces on dolls and making clothes for dolls while Rose is content because she doesn’t think they have any other options due to their physical traits (Iris has a deformed collarbone, and Rose has small pox scars.) Add in Silas, a creepy, stalker taxidermist who obsesses over things like dead conjoined puppies and Iris’s collarbone, and you’ve got a psychological suspense thriller in the making. Silas was one of the most deranged fictional psychopaths I’ve ever read about. While I’m not opposed to taxidermy, the descriptions of him working with dead animals turned my stomach. His behavior gets more appalling and repulsive as the story goes on, and I found myself breaking into a sweat every time I read about him. 

Iris is the strongest female character I’ve read about in quite a while (although I definitely do not condone her decision to have an affair with a married man whose wife was terminally ill). I admire that she refused to accept a life of misery working at the Doll Factory under the supervision of a semi-sycophant who mistreated her and focused on finding a way out. When worse things happen to her later in the story that I can’t discuss because of spoilers, she doesn’t wait around for a man to save her (although she wasn’t opposed to the idea.) I’ve read a lot of books lately where the authors seem to think being a “strong” female character involves hating men and being a self-absorbed “breastfeeding” mommy so Iris was an incredibly refreshing character. She not only had career aspirations, she also cared for other people (her sister and a little street urchin who was down to his last tooth and couldn’t afford false teeth.) 

I would like to read more books like the Doll Factory and look forward to reading the author’s next book.
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