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The Doll Factory

3.82  ·  Rating details ·  16,939 ratings  ·  2,016 reviews
The Doll Factory, the debut novel by Elizabeth Macneal, is an intoxicating story of art, obsession and possession.

London. 1850. The Great Exhibition is being erected in Hyde Park and among the crowd watching the spectacle two people meet. For Iris, an aspiring artist, it is the encounter of a moment – forgotten seconds later, but for Silas, a collector entranced by the str
Hardcover, 336 pages
Published May 2nd 2019 by Picador
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Fran Yes it is a stand-alone (as far as I am aware anyway certainly read as a standalone)

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Average rating 3.82  · 
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 ·  16,939 ratings  ·  2,016 reviews

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Dec 30, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: netgalley
Richly evocative of Victorian London, ‘The Doll Factory’ revolves around Iris, who together with her sister Rose, works for the cruel, laudanum addicted Mrs Salter. Iris dreams of being an artist, expressing herself on canvas, giving vent to her talents, rather than spending long hours of monotony painting dolls faces. When she meets pre- Raphaelite artist Louis Frost, and he asks her to model for him, she agrees, on condition that he teaches her to paint professionally.

This is London 1850, and
Mar 15, 2019 rated it really liked it
This is an unforgettable piece of chilling and gothic historical fiction, the debut from Elizabeth Macneal, set in the Victorian era. She writes an atmospheric and beautifully constructed story of art, ambition, a deranged obsession, love and horror, amidst the poverty, class divisions and entrenched inequalities, squalor, culture, scientific developments, and the prevalent social norms and attitudes of the time, such as the way women were treated. Iris and her sister, Rose live humdrum lives pa ...more
Aug 29, 2019 rated it it was amazing
This novel is a winner for me!
The 1850 London, where pre-Raphaelites shook the artistic world, where a young woman is tired of painting dolls and wants to express herself in real art, London where a little boy collects money by bringing carcases of dead animals to a most peculiar taxidermist in order to buy false teeth for himself and who also looks after his sister, and London that is preparing for the Great Exhibition, is the place that I found fascinating while reading, and at the same time
Elyse  Walters
Aug 18, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition

This Victorian era....
fusion drama gets creepier and creepier....with a climactic ending!!!

A reader who chooses this novel is getting the deli deluxe combo sandwich with added secret ingredients whether you want them or not.....
along with:
....gothic noir...
....historical fiction...(a tribute to art, artists and London during the Victorian era, 1850-1851...and an education/understanding of pre-Raphael)...
....creations made in a doll shop...
....a Great exhibition in Hyde Park...
Jul 23, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: netgalley
The Doll Factory imagines an 1850 London that could easily have been written by Dickens. We see Albie, the street urchin with but a single tooth, who collects dead animals for Silas, a taxidermist and a collector who dreams of having his own museum of oddities. Twin sisters, Iris and Rose, paint and cloth china dolls for Mrs. Salter, their laudanum addicted mistress. When Iris meets Louis Frost, a pre-Raphaelite painter, she strikes a bargain with him to model in exchange for painting lessons. T ...more
Amalia Gkavea
''When the streets are at the darkest and quitest, a girl settles at a small desk in the cellar of a dollmaker's shop. A bald china head sits in front of her and watches her with a vacant stare. She squeezes red and white watercolours on to an oyster shell, sucks the end of her brush, and adjusts the looking glass before her. The candle hisses. The girl narrows her eyes at the black paper.''

London, 1850. As the great metropolis is preparing for an illustrious event, three characters discove
Sep 12, 2019 rated it liked it
Shelves: netgalley

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 h
Jennifer ~ TarHeelReader
Happy pub day to this creepy blend of hist fic and mystery! 🦋 🦋 🦋 🦋

The Doll Factory is set in 1850s London. The Great Exhibition is going up on Hyde Park. It’s an art exhibition and among the crowd watching the event are Iris and Silas, who meet by chance. Iris is an aspiring artist and Silas is collector of curiosities and a taxidermist (creepy!). Iris does not think much of the meeting, but to Silas, it’s a point of importance.

Iris is asked to model for Louis Frost, and she agrees if he will
3.5 Stars

I was lured into reading this book because of its locale and time period (Victorian London), the Dickensian / gothic atmosphere, and the promise of all things weird. This book delivered on all fronts.

The main character is Iris, who with her twin sister Rose works in a porcelain doll shop in London. The apprenticeship was set up by their parents. The establishment is sandwiched in between other storefronts, one of which is a bakery, resulting in sugary scents wafting into their shop. Iri
Charlotte May
Expectations met!

Iris and her twin sister Rose work in a shop that makes dolls. They paint their faces an make their clothes - sending nearly all their wages back to their parents.

Iris secretly longs for more, she fondly remembers the times her and Rose would plan their own shop where they could sell their own wares and be independent.

When the opportunity arises for Iris to be a model for an up and coming artist she can’t refuse. And in exchange Louis will give her painting lessons and money s
"‘I would say observing. It’s an important skill for an artist".

The Doll Factory by Elizabeth Macneal

I am editing this because I want to be clear. This is a good book but NOT FOR ME. Different books are for different people.

Were it not for the Taxidermist and killing of an animal, graphic scenes of stuffing animals ETC I would have most likely given this a higher rating. And I did read most of it although I cannot even say how much I skimmed or ignored entirely because of this issue. If these
Sep 27, 2019 rated it it was ok
Nopety nope......this book just wasn’t for me. It was extremely slow going and I was losing patience with it more than anything else. I was also turned off and a little disgusted by a few scenes and when that happens while reading there usually isn’t anything that will save the book for me whether it’s an amazing read or not.

I couldn’t resist that gorgeous cover and title of this book though and thought I would absolutely love it. I’m so disappointed that I didn’t.

I received an ARC through Net
Dec 02, 2018 rated it really liked it
This was a great book. The descriptions and historical details were realistic and some were new to me. I’ve read quite a lot of Victorian historical fiction, so new ways of thinking about this era are always welcome: a boy saving for a full set of dentures; the fascination with natural history and taxidermy as the scientific discoveries of anatomy multiplied .The symbol of the Great Exhibition as the visible part of an iceberg, while the gritty filth and ordinariness of Victorian Street life lie ...more
Brenda ~Traveling Sisters Book Reviews
Not feeling the love for this one and there is no grooving to the beat of this one for me! This was one Norma and I thought we would love but it was not the dark and twisted that I like to groove to. So I am moving on to the next one and keeping this review short.
Jul 28, 2019 rated it really liked it
Gothic, evocative, and eerie!

The Doll Factory is a riveting, gritty tale set in London in the mid-1800s at a time when the city was bustling, scavenging was prevalent, respectability meant everything, The Great Exhibition was a structural marvel, and the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood was redefining visual art.

There are three main memorable characters in this novel; Iris Whittle, a young red-headed girl who dreams of becoming an artist and unconsciously catches the eye of many; Silas Reed, a strange
Apr 21, 2020 rated it liked it
Shelves: 5000-2020
This is a beautifully written, debut novel set in Victorian London against a backdrop of the Great Exhibition.

I love reading historical fiction, partly because of the things I learn and this one taught me lots about the Pre Raphaelite Brotherhood which was fascinating. I also learned more than I ever wanted to know about taxidermy at least when it is performed by a madman. When it became too gross I am afraid I resorted to skimming.

The character of Silas was very skilfully drawn. (view spoiler)
J.K. Grice
Jan 15, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
THE DOLL FACTORY was a splendid journey through the world of Victorian London in the 1850's. Author Elizabeth Macneal weaves a very engaging tale, and takes us from the seamy underside of the city to the grand expanses of the Great Exhibition and the Crystal Palace of Hyde Park. Iris, Rose, Louis, Silas, Albie, and the entire cast of characters she introduces us to are expertly drawn and realized. I felt myself completely immersed in this world populated by artists, urchins, whores, criminals, a ...more
Ova - Excuse My Reading
Jan 05, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: netgalley, historical
Review soon
Jan 10, 2019 rated it liked it
3.5 stars

Set in Victorian London in 1850, Elizabeth MacNeal's debut novel, the Doll Factory, depicts a story of Iris, who despite her parents disapproval decides to follow her dream of becoming an artist. She meets Luis who is a painter from Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood and he is completely smitten by her. Luis wants to paint Iris and also agrees to give her painting lessons. However, Luis is not the only one who has their eyes on Iris. Iris and Silas are briefly introduced at an exhibition. While
Sep 16, 2019 rated it really liked it
I received a free e-copy of The Doll Factory by Elizabeth Macneal from NetGalley for my honest review.

This book of historical fiction that is super creepy! This story takes place in 1850's in London. Twin sisters, Iris and Rose, work for Mrs. Salter at the Doll Emporium. The girls paint doll faces and clothe them as well. Iris aspires to be a real artist. Rose doesn't ever want to go anywhere or do anything because of the scars she has on her face from having smallpox.

Iris, who is beautiful, so
(Nearly 4.5) Victorian pastiches are among my very favorite things to read, but (not least because I have an MA in Victorian Literature) I’m awfully picky about them. This one’s a winner, perfect for fans of Michel Faber, John Fowles, and Sarahs Moss, Perry and Waters. It’s set over a year and a half in the early 1850s and focuses on the Great Exhibition and the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood, but it also rootles around in the everyday world of poorer Londoners: the sort who scrounge a living by mak ...more
Ron Charles
I’ve missed subway stops to finish a book, but this is the first time I almost missed a plane. The final chapters of Elizabeth Macneal’s delightfully creepy novel kept me screwed to my office chair as my wife sent irritated texts from the airport.

What more could one want from a Victorian thriller?

But Macneal delivers even more. “The Doll Factory,” which is already a hit in England, offers an eerily lifelike re-creation of 1850s London laced with a smart feminist critique of Western aesthetics. I
Nenia ✨ I yeet my books back and forth ✨ Campbell

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I'm a sucker for stories about murderous obsession, especially if it's channeled through art. John Fowles's THE COLLECTOR was about a butterfly collector who decided to broaden his repertoire to include a woman, and Patrick Süskind's PERFUME is about a perfume creator who wants to perfect the scent of a young girl. THE DOLL FACTORY, with its compellingly creepy summary, seemed like it would be yet another tale in that vein.

Iris works in
Nov 17, 2018 rated it liked it
Shelves: netgalley
The Doll Factory by Elizabeth Macneal is the story of Iris who works in the Doll Factory and dreams of being an artist. She becomes a model for the artist Louis Frost and she embraces the world of art.
Iris meets Silas who becomes obsessed with her and the story becomes very dark and sometimes scary.
I would like to thank NetGalley and Pan Macmillan for my e-copy in exchange for an honest review.

Dec 26, 2019 rated it liked it
Shelves: netgalley
As you can tell by the fact it took me 3 months to finish this book, it definitely was not a favorite. The beginning was extremely slow and I sat it down many times. I think some of that is on me... I don’t usually read historical pieces but wanted to try something a little different.

The story picked up by about 75% and I felt actively engaged. There was a strong plot twist that added excitement. Overall I would recommend to readers who don’t mind the slower pace.

*Thanks to NetGalley and publish
May 02, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Exquisite. Simply exquisite historical fiction. Winner of the Caledonia Novel Award 2018 and touted as Picador's most spectacular debut for 2019 it is difficult to explain just how sublime this was, and I am almost lost for words to describe the stunning fragility and intrigue this story brings.

Set in 1850s Victorian London, the period detail is perfect invoking the sight, scents and sounds of this great city; it's clear Ms Macneal has researched the era extensively to bring a rounded authentic
Joanne Harris
Overall, a nice piece of atmospheric Gothic work, set in the world of Pre-Raphaelite art and featuring, among other things: artists' models; estranged twins; an endearing urchin; domestic tragedy; a deranged collector, plus various pieces of Romantic art, bad Victorian taxidermy, stained silk and bodily fluids. Well-written, evocative, and with just enough research detail to make the story pop, without descending into interminable descriptions of paint pigments. Not entirely sure the ending quit ...more
Bam cooks the books ;-)
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. ...more
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 obsessi ...more
Katie (never.ending.reading.list)
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 beaut
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Elizabeth Macneal was born in Edinburgh and now lives in East London. She is a writer and potter and works from a small studio at the bottom of her garden. She read English Literature at Oxford University, before working in the City for several years. In 2017, she completed the Creative Writing MA at UEA in 2017 where she was awarded the Malcolm Bradbury scholarship.

The Doll Factory, Elizabeth's

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