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 strange and beautiful, that meeting marks a new beginning.
When Iris is asked to model for pre-Raphaelite artist Louis Frost, she agrees on the condition that he will also teach her to paint. Suddenly her world begins to expand, to become a place of art and love.
But Silas has only thought of one thing since their meeting, and his obsession is darkening…
Set in 1850 London, Iris and her twin sister Rose, who is scarred by smallpox are working long long hours for the spiteful owner of a doll shop. Sewing beads and trimmings onto dolls clothes made by much poorer locals, and painting dolls faces to be like their intended owners, many of these deceased young girls.
Iris then meets Louis, an artist and a member of the pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood, she agrees to model for him as long as he agrees to teach her to paint.
Another character, Silas Reed is obsessed with taxidermy. He is often brought ‘Road Kill’ by a young urchin, and when he is brought conjoined puppies he is thrilled.
He is introduced to Iris by the young urchin and Silas is attracted to her slightly misshapen collarbone and becomes obsessed with her.
Elizabeth Macneal has written an incredibly evocative gothic tale of Victorian London at a time of advances in both technology, art and new ideals, but still dealing with the abject poverty and squalor for those less fortunate.
The absolutely chilling, gruesome portrayal of Silas’ damaged mind is so well done it gives you the shivers, and you will want to read it with all the lights on…marvellously creepy.
I would like to thank the Author/the Publishers/NetGalley for the opportunity to read this book in exchange for a fair and honest review
The Doll Factory
by Elizabeth Macneal
About The Author
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 debut novel, won the Caledonia Noel Award 2018. It will be published in twenty-eight languages and TV rights have sold to Buccaneer Media
(details from Goodreads)