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The Doll Factory

3.79  ·  Rating details ·  2,310 ratings  ·  396 reviews
The #1 International Bestseller

This terrifically exciting novel will jolt, thrill, and bewitch readers.” —Booklist, starred review

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
Hardcover, 368 pages
Expected publication: August 13th 2019 by Atria/Emily Bestler Books (first published May 2nd 2019)
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3.79  · 
Rating details
 ·  2,310 ratings  ·  396 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  ·  review of another edition
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
Ova - Excuse My Reading
Review soon
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
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
Nov 17, 2018 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
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.

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
(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
Jun 01, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Eric Anderson
May 05, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
May 23, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
May 02, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
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
Julie Parks
Dec 07, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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  ·  review of another edition
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
Nenia 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
Jun 26, 2019 rated it it was amazing
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
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
Apr 21, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Trigger warning: violence and animal cruelty

Gripping and original. Macneal uses the gothic and grim atmosphere of Victorian London to examine the objectification of women as encouraged by the romantic art (mostly made by men) of that time. The imprisonment and saving of helpless women by men have become a common theme in paintings, even among the characters who are pushing for a new movement in art. What happens when someone wants to recreate that art in real life?

It’s fascinating to read how M
Jun 01, 2019 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
I have seen this much written about, much praised slice of dark Victoriana compared with books like The Collector, The Crimson Petal and the White, and Fingersmith. Though I don’t think this book is in that class, I can see why the comparisons have been drawn, and it holds a dark and compelling story that has much to say.

At the centre of the story is Iris Whittle, who spends her days working at a Regent Street doll shop, painting features onto china faces, and her nights in the cellar where she
Jun 04, 2019 rated it really liked it
early Victorian love thriller novel based around the time of the great exhibition (the crystal palace) where a young female dreams of being a painter and changing her life and there is silas the shop keeper who obsesses over things. felt the ending could of been slightly better but overall enjoyed this novel and can see why so far its been hyped up.
I love neo-Victorian historical fiction and I love novels about art and artists, so I fell on The Doll Factory with cries of glee. And what a great read it is, offering up everything readers like me crave: a seedy, seamy and richly described London setting, a plucky heroine determined to defy convention and become an artist, a full cast of interesting characters, ranging from the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood to creepy Dickensian bad-guys and heart-rending Dickensian urchins. While I could have liv ...more
Nicole (Read Eat Sleep Repeat)
DNF at 30%. The premise for this book was intriguing and the writing was solid but I simply couldn’t get into it.

*Thanks to the publisher for providing an arc of this edition via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.
Iris works in a shop painting porcelain dolls but has always dreamt of being a professional artist. When her path crosses that with Silas, a collector of oddities, and Louis, one of the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood, her life changes forever. I enjoyed this, the characterisation was great and the story rattled along at a decent pace. I also liked how Iris saved herself in a time when women were supposed to be rescued by men.
Jan 20, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Set in London in 1850, sisters Rose and Iris work for Mrs Salter at the Doll factory painting the faces and hands of porcelain dolls. But Iris dreams of becoming an artist. One day she meets Louis Frost. Who she agrees to become a model for him, in return for Louis to teach her how to paint. She leaves her sister behind, and moves into the room whilst modelling. Her sister Rose disapproves so much, that they end up not talking. As they spend so much time together Iris and Louis all in love.
Vikki Patis
Mar 24, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Historical fiction is one of my favourite genres, and I especially like books which do not flinch away from the harsh realities of the time in which they are set. The Doll Factory is such a novel, which follows the lives of Iris and Silas, bound together only by his infatuation with her. Iris is a strong, intelligent woman who has, in many ways, freed herself from the constraints of society by giving up her respectable post in a doll shop, abandoning her sister in the process, and becoming a mod ...more
Jun 02, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
The Doll Factory by Elizabeth MacNeal is certainly an intoxicating gothic thriller. Full of imagination and a whirling mind.

Set in Victorian London, 1850 when Iris is asked to model for Pre-Raphaelite artist Louis Frost under the condition he will in time teach her to paint.

It's a dark and brooding tale of two twin sisters Iris and Rose starting work in a doll factory constructing, making and painting porcelain dolls and leading onto their separate lives.

One with an ambition to become an artist
Nov 20, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
The ruptured mind.

London 1850: Iris and her disfigured twin sister Rose are trapped working brutish hours for the nasty owner of a doll shop. “Seed pearls, ruched sleeves, passementerie trimmings, tiny velvet buttons as small as mouse noses.” Iris yearns to be an artist. When she meets Louis Frost, one of the pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood, she is persuaded to model for him on the condition that he teaches her to paint.

Meanwhile, the weirdly sinister Silas Reed is involved in his own ‘close work’ of
Marie (UK)
Overall I think there will be many people who buy and thoroughly enjoy this book. It is a bit slow moving at the beginning but Macneal builds a strong narrative. The times are captured well but this is less an historical fiction than a mystery / thriller/ horror . Her characterisation is excellent - particularly of Silas and Albie. However, I have to say, it verged too far towards horror for me. It was very dark at times and I really didn't enjoy reading some of the book - I think I am a bit too ...more
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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