Amanda - Mrs B's Book Reviews's Reviews > The Doll Factory

The Doll Factory by Elizabeth Macneal
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bookshelves: 2019-books, first-reads, review-book

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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 excitement of The Great Exhibition, erected in the very heart of London captured the full attention of many local men and women of the time. The arrival of the Great Exhibition gives much hope, especially to a woman named Iris who works in a doll factory. Iris is keen to begin training as an artist and she finds her big break when she is asked to model for one of the all important artists of the Pre-Raphaelite brotherhood. Louis Frost is captivated by Iris and she agrees to model for him in exchange for painting lessons. As Iris’s eyes are opened up to a new world of opportunity, love, seduction and ambition, a dark figure sits lurking in the background. The Doll Factory is the captivating story of personal aspirations and deadly fascination, set in times past.

The initial appeal of this novel for me was definitely the cover, it is simply exquisite! However, nestled beneath the pages of this stunning cover is an assured and highly original piece of writing. Deeply entrenched in the era in which it is set, Victorian London, The Doll Factory commanded my attention from the opening page.

The Doll Factory offers a rich painting of 1850s London. Every page is dripping in atmosphere. My senses were ignited was read page after page, which relays a typical day in the life of an inhabitant of London during this era. I could smell the toxic smoke that engulfs Britain’s capital, I turned my nose away at the lack of sewage control and I could feel the cold, hunger and despair of the poor. Macneal devotes a significant proportion of her novel to outlining the plight of the lower class. She opens our eyes to the life of orphans, prostitutes, the homeless and those constantly struggling to make ends meet. The bohemian world of the artists featured in this novel are also portrayed with great vigour. I felt like I was able to easily slip into the guise of each character Macneal laid out on the page – no matter their age, gender, class or profession.

Iris, the lead character, was an interesting formation. I liked how Macneal used Iris as a symbol of the inequality and lack of opportunity that existed for aspiring women of this era. Macneal illuminates this aspect well. Likewise, her supporting cast was presented very well. Silas really got under my skin, he definitely sent shivers down my spine, thanks to Macneal’s rich prose. The secondary cast get plenty of air time, so that we form an excellent picture of their life and unique quirks. The character that I found I looked forward to reaching each time he entered the pages of this novel was Louis Frost. Despite the fact that I have read plenty of previous literature on the Pre Raphaelite brotherhood, I still find the world inhabited by these artists utterly beguiling. Macneal certainly impressed me with her dedication to recreating the world inhabited by these fascinating protagonists.

In terms of the plot itself, I found Macneal’s storytelling contributed to an overall sense of wonder with this novel. There were plenty of moments of unexpected discovery, surprise and astonishment. In particular, the character of Silas certainly transformed The Doll Factory into a book that leans on some sinister undertones. I also appreciated the full bodied sketch on the rise of The Great Exhibition, an area that has fascinated me since I first learnt of its existence in the reign of Queen Victoria. All in all, The Doll Factory is a book that I feel was executed well, especially for a debut novelist. I am very keen to see what Elizabeth Macneal will tackle next.

*Thanks extended to Pan Macmillan for providing a free copy of this book for review purposes.
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Reading Progress

Started Reading
May 27, 2019 – Finished Reading
May 30, 2019 – Shelved
May 30, 2019 – Shelved as: 2019-books
May 30, 2019 – Shelved as: first-reads
May 30, 2019 – Shelved as: review-book

Comments Showing 1-10 of 10 (10 new)

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Carolyn Lovely review, Amanda ~ I've just started reading The Doll Factory


message 2: by Sue (new)

Sue Gerhardt Griffiths Sounds good. Wonderful review, Amanda!


*TUDOR^QUEEN* Sounds wonderful! Great review 😍🔰🌹


message 4: by Kimberly (new) - added it

Kimberly Antill This sounds like a good book. I think I will have to add it to my list of books to read.


Amanda - Mrs B's Book Reviews Carolyn wrote: "Lovely review, Amanda ~ I've just started reading The Doll Factory"

That's so wonderful to hear, isn't the cover just exquisite!


Amanda - Mrs B's Book Reviews Kimberly wrote: "This sounds like a good book. I think I will have to add it to my list of books to read."

That's fantastic, great to hear and I look forward to your thoughts.


Amanda - Mrs B's Book Reviews *TUDOR^QUEEN* wrote: "Sounds wonderful! Great review 😍🔰🌹"

Thanks so much, I hope you get the chance to experience this novel Tudor Queen!


Amanda - Mrs B's Book Reviews Sue wrote: "Sounds good. Wonderful review, Amanda!"

A very good historical fiction title and a great sketch of Victorian times. Thanks Sue.


Elyse Walters Fabulous review Amanda


Amanda - Mrs B's Book Reviews Elyse wrote: "Fabulous review Amanda"

Thank you so much Elyse!


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