Lou's Reviews > The Doll Factory

The Doll Factory by Elizabeth Macneal
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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 authenticity. I was particularly impressed and intrigued by learning more about the sisters who were part of the pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood and much like other women of their time were overlooked.

This feels as far from a debut as you could get, often debuts are where an author finds their feet, but it appears that this master wordsmith found hers long ago. An incredibly accomplished debut and one of those books other writers will strongly wish they had birthed.

The Doll Factory is a startling meditation on the all-consuming nature of obsession and love set against the backdrop of The Great Exhibition and wider London art scene. Also explored are themes of devotion, madness and, of course, art. The tagline: "freedom is a precious thing" and the bell jar featuring various important pieces that form the basis of the story illustrates the powerful nature of love but if treated carelessly that the fine line between love and hate can often be crossed and never returned back from.

The cast of characters deepen with every passing chapter, the tense undercurrent that runs throughout grips from the very beginning and the vivid imagery makes you feel a part of the story rather than an outsider looking in. There are some genuinely chilling, creepy incidents on the slow-building journey to the climax which creates a claustrophobic atmosphere. Towards the last half of the book, the story pace rises and moves closer to a simply heart-pounding crescendo.

I'm finding it really problematic doing The Doll Factory justice with this review and I must say that I rarely have an issue with reviewing. However, I feel floored after finishing this, and despite the number of books I read this one will unmistakably hold a special place in my heart for the way it made me feel throughout.

If you enjoy the period detail of historical fiction, the drama and shocking surprises of a thriller and books such as The Miniaturist and The Mermaid & Mrs Hancock then this will likely charm you as it did me. This, in my opinion, in unmissable. I will patiently await her next dazzling work. Ms Macneal, you have an ardent fan. Many thanks to Picador for an ARC.
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Reading Progress

Finished Reading
January 17, 2019 – Shelved (Kindle Edition)
January 17, 2019 – Shelved as: to-read (Kindle Edition)
May 2, 2019 – Shelved

Comments Showing 1-2 of 2 (2 new)

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Mel (Epic Reading) I was already quite excited for this one but your comparison to The Miniaturist has me sooo stoked! Great review.

Elyse Walters Fantastic review Lou

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