Click to listen!
Title: The Doll Factory
Author: Elizabeth MacNeal
Published: 2nd of May 2019 – Picador
Format: Hardback – 336 pages
Hello Hello! How are you?
Yes it’s Friday, and no this is not a Down the TBR Hole post as I usually do on Fridays aha! I’m so busy with university work and I’m still feeling fairly bad so I decided to be easy on myself for once and just post a review instead! I should be back with the DTTH post next week though, well, I hope so anyway!
How has your week been and what do you have planned for this weekend? I’ve had such a busy week, so many online classes and I have so many papers, presentations and so much research to do, but I’m going to let myself breathe this weekend because I need to look after myself!
So today, (sorry for my waffling), I’m going to be talking about The Doll Factory by Elizabeth MacNeal which I read in October with some of the lovely members of @The_WriteReads gang! Hannah set this up and we had so much fun reading this book, talking about it, all the wild speculating was hilarious and I definitely needed it because I don’t think I would have finished this book without the buddy reading and the chatting! Now, keep on reading for all my thoughts, and I apologise if it doesn’t make sense, it’s still very much exploding in my head aha!
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 . . .
The Doll Factory by Elizabeth MacNeal is a historical fiction which is rather on the dark side if I’m honest! I read the book with some blogger friends and we absolutely loved discussing everything about this book, I’m actually quite grateful to them because I think I would have DNF’ed it if I had been reading it alone, it wasn’t bad by any means, it just got so dark and yucky and I needed to rant!
You all know that I love historical fiction, so I’m really glad it was the first genre we chose for our little book club, and I had been meaning to read this book for a while, so I’m glad I got to it. This book is set in 1850, in London, but not in a London that I’ve read about before. If you are expecting prim characters and some not very obvious or explicit obsession and love, then this is not the book for you because it showcases the dark, dirty, poor and sad parts of London, and weaves this setting together with characters that don’t seem to go together, but that end up being so important for the story!
I’m really struggling to write this review to be honest because I have so many thoughts and feelings and I’m afraid it’s all coming out a bit weirdly! I do have to warn you that this book gets dark, spooky, creepy, there are some really big trigger warnings in this book that I’ll name further on, but if you are sensitive or don’t like gore, death and obsession, then I would stay away. I am not sensitive at all and can read literally anything, but this one had me a few times, especially in the parts where it’s Silas’s point of view because he gets very creepy very quickly and it’s a very uneasy feeling reading his chapters! That kind of uneasiness had never happened to me before reading a book, so it was a bit of a surprise.
I’m waffling on without even explaining what this book is about – sorry! The part of this book that I loved, loved, loved, was the art! Iris and Rose are twin sisters and they live and work in Mrs Salter’s Doll Emporium, but Iris has always been creative and wanted to draw and paint, but her current situation doesn’t let her fulfil her passion. I’m not going to spoil you, but there is a really big focus on art in this book, specifically about the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood and its members. I adored these parts, getting to know the characters, seeing how they lived, seeing the way they painted, it was just so amazing!
Just a little side note, if you love wombats, then you need to read this book!
This is a bit more of a kind of psychological thriller really, it has a lot of things going on and I have to say that the conclusion did not wrap things up for me, I enjoyed the book quite a lot, and especially discussing it, but I feel like the ending was just too easy, as if the author didn’t know what to do and decided to chuck that in there. It’s quite frustrating because although it was an ending that I appreciated for who it was pulled off, there were still so many things left unsaid and unexplained!
There are some great characters in this book, my favourites were Iris, Louis and Albie, I have a soft-spot for Albie actually, he was such a sweetheart. I really liked the different London perspectives we got from each character, it’s kind of hard to explain but it felt like each represented social echelons and I found it really intriguing to discover new sides of London. I would say that Albie is right at the bottom of the ladder poor thing, Silas is a bit higher, Iris and Rose a bit higher still and Louis and his friends higher still, we never actually see wealthy gentlemen and ladies though, which was a real change for me and a choice that I liked a lot more!
I have no idea if this review has made sense at all or not, but I did enjoy this book, however, it made me uneasy, some parts were just BLAH and I nearly had to put the book down, other parts ripped my heart open, and I was shouting and cursing and throwing the book around the room by the end of it. If you are looking for a cosy, easy and nice book, leave this review now, cause it’s none of those things!
I would say it’s on the dark side, for sure, it really focuses on obsession and I think also on mental illness, I can’t say much more, but as the book goes on, there is obviously something involving mental illness and it all culminates into a bit of a mindboggling last few chapters! I really enjoyed reading this and discussing it with my book club buddies, my favourite part was the wild speculating, it was so funny!
MY THOUGHTS AND RATING
As you can tell, I haven’t really got my thoughts in order, and it’s a bit of a mess. I did enjoy this book, it was very interesting and I am definitely going to be on the lookout for more books by this author, she is very promising.
The writing style was fabulous, it was on the dark and quite raw side, it’s the kind of writing style that I really enjoy from time to time. I really liked how it flopped from one “feeling” to the next when moving from Silas, to Rose, to Iris, to Albie, to Louis, I don’t know how she did it, but I felt like I was either standing right next to the characters or was the characters at times because it was so vivid and palpable!
But because of this amazing writing style, it’s rawness and also it’s beauty, at times I was quite uneasy and it does make you want to cringe, a lot. Some chapters were very dark, very obsessive and I found myself nearly wanting to put the book down because I was so uncomfortable, but then it flopped back to a more light and airy feeling and I continued on. It’s the kind of book that needs to be taken either with a pinch of salt or an open mind because it muddled my brain, to be honest, and I’m afraid I still haven’t recuperated it!
I gave this book 3.5 stars, I didn’t know whether I was going for 3 stars or 3.5 stars, but I think that the author’s talent, writing skill, the atmosphere, setting, art side of the story really deserved that extra nudge, although the plot did feel a bit rushed towards the end and I don’t think that it actually ended in a way that I enjoyed that much!
Trigger warnings: obsession/obsessive behaviours and vivid obsessive thoughts, disability/deformity and the prejudice towards it, death, animal death, children death, gore, abuse, and a dark and raw atmosphere and plot.
That’s all for now, I hope you enjoyed this post and congratulations if you made it to the end. See you soon, stay safe,
Atmosphere – 7
Start – 6
Pacing – 6
Ending – 5
Characters – 6
Theme – 5
Style – 7
Total = 42
If you would like to purchase this book, you can find it here: Amazon UK – Amazon FR – Amazon US – AbeBooks (affiliate link) – The Book Depository (affiliate link) – Audible FR (affiliate link) – Waterstones – Barnes and Noble – Audible UK – Kobo