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The Doll Factory

3.79  ·  Rating details ·  3,479 ratings  ·  604 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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3.79  · 
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 ·  3,479 ratings  ·  604 reviews

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Dec 30, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
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
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
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 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
Ova - Excuse My Reading
Jan 05, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: historical, netgalley
Review soon
Dec 02, 2018 rated it it was amazing
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
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
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.

(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
Nenia ⭐ Literary Garbage Can ⭐ 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 a d
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
Jun 01, 2019 rated it really liked it
Many thanks to NetGalley and Simon & Schuster for this evocative and atmospheric historical novel. Told in lush prose it captures the artistry and vivid colours of the controversial Pre-Raphaelite movement, and artistic and romantic passion. It also places us into the filth, poverty, vice, and reeking squalor of London in the mid-1800s. Foremost in the story is the delusion and deranged obsession of a twisted mind. It is astonishing that this gothic flavoured story is the author’s debut nove ...more
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
Eric Anderson
May 05, 2019 rated it it was amazing
When I can't sleep at night I have a habit of watching nature documentaries. At one point I found a programme that focuses on marsupials and there were two episodes on wombats. After discovering more about these rodent-like burrowers I was absolutely smitten and have become obsessed with watching videos about them ever since. It turns out I'm not alone as the Pre-Raphaelite artists of mid-nineteenth century London were also keen on these curious creatures – as described in this article about Dan ...more
I don't read an awful lot of historical fiction unless it has a particular hook that appeals to my tastes (usually horror), and this reminded me why – which, I hasten to add, is not supposed to sound as harsh as it does. This is a good story, just not a book for me. The Doll Factory is a well-written and atmospheric take on Victorian London, most likely to appeal to fans of recent popular historical novels such as The Miniaturist, in which shop-girl Iris dreams of becoming an artist. She escapes ...more
Chris  C - A Midlife Wife
Odd and yet captivating.
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.

Amanda - Mrs B's Book Reviews
The Doll Factory is the debut novel from Elizabeth Macneal. The recipient of the 2018 New Caledonia Novel Award, The Doll Factory is a potent historical tale, exposing a world filled with artistry, passion, compulsion and control. A book that thrusts the reader into days gone by, The Doll Factory is a highly authentic and fresh tale from an emerging author.

Set in London in the year 1850, Elizabeth Macneal recreates a time of great progression in Britain. The
Natalie M
Jul 15, 2019 rated it really liked it
This is definitely a unique read which I thoroughly enjoyed. Edging towards the gothic this historical thriller is an excellent debut novel by author Macneal. The page-turner epitomises life in Victorian England where ideations of beauty, societal expectations and norms are both conformed to and challenged by this author.

Silas, an unforgettable psychologically disturbed character with many obsessions and a need to possess, is the character who leads the story development and from which the plot
May 23, 2019 rated it really liked it
Being poor in any era is always going to create hurdles that are incredibly hard to overcome. Throw in being a woman and those obstacles can seem insurmountable. That is very much the case for Iris Whittle who along with her sister Rose works for a pittance in a doll factory in London in 1850. Iris longs to be a famous painter but has resided herself to the fact she will never be able to achieve such status.

When Iris is unexpectedly approached by artist Louis Frost who is looking for a model aft
Julie Parks
Dec 07, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: fantasy
THE DOLL FACTORY was captivating and authentic. Set in historic London of 1850, it is both dark and beautiful.
The story can become scary at times but overall it's a joyride for your imagination.

Thank you NetGalley for the chance to read this in exchange for my honest review.
Liz Barnsley
Nov 04, 2018 rated it really liked it
The Doll Factory was an immersive, authentic read with an undertone of darkness and a great Historical setting that you just sink into.
It is a pacy read that is part historical drama and part thriller – it has a slow burn start that immediately engages you with this small group of humanity all living around the build up to the Great Exhibition. It is a novel about art and creativity, but also a story of love and obsession, of wanting to escape the bounds of your social standing, about hopes and
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
Lolly K Dandeneau
Jul 26, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
via my blog:
'Her eyes, sockets slightly hollowed, contained a loneliness and longing that felt at once familiar. It was as if an invisible cord united them.'

Iris Whittle wants freedom, not to endure her sister Rose’s jealousy ‘until, at last, some scrawny boy fattens her with child after child’, slaving over laundry, cooking ‘rotten offal’ and tending infants ‘mewling with scarlatina and influenza and God knows what else’. Iris and her twin sister Rose appr
I received a temporary digital Advance Reader Copy of this book from #NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

From the publisher, as I do not repeat the contents or story of books in reviews, I let them do it as they do it better than I do 😸.

Obsession is an art.

In this “sharp, scary, gorgeously evocative tale of love, art, and obsession” (Paula Hawkins, bestselling author of The Girl on the Train), a beautiful young woman aspires to be an artist, while a man’s dark obsession may destroy her
Aug 22, 2019 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Fans of Historical Gothic/Horror Fiction.
Rating and review coming soon.

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 things DO NOT bother you, you may indeed like this book. I skimmed to fi
Wow! What a powerhouse of a debut from Elizabeth Macneal! There is a lot of positive buzz currently surrounding this and I was expecting good things, but what I found within its pages was even better than I had hoped for. It's a delicious, absorbing, gritty historical fiction novel that fans of Fingersmith and The Collector will love. It's hardly surprising that fourteen publishers battled it out to win the rights to its publication, with Picador emerging as the eventual winners. Set in London i ...more
This book was a bit slow to get into but once I did.. it was super creepy.

The Doll Factory was an interesting book. Don't get me wrong... but one little thing that not a lot people know about me.. is that dolls creep me out. Ya know.. like Annabelle, Barbie, whatever - they all creep me out. So I was a bit hesitant to dive into this but then it had murder in it - so yeah, I was down.

In this, you will meet Iris. She's wanted to be an artist for all her life basically so it's kind of fascinating w
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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