Hello! I’m back again, with another review! It’s crazy being home and having time to read, how much books I’ve actually gone through. I set myself a target of 100 books this year on Goodreads, and before Lockdown started I was 2 books behind schedule, and as of today, I am 6 books AHEAD of schedule. I feel so productive. Even though all I’ve done is sit on my bum reading and eating cookies. (Don’t judge me.) So todays book is Elizabeth Macneal’s debut The Doll Factory. I picked this up from the supermarket because, I’ll be honest, I am running low on books, scarily so. It sounded really interesting and I was genuinely so excited to read it.
The Doll Factory is a Historical Fiction book. It’s full of mystery and suspense and is described as “A sharp, scary, gorgeously evocative tale of love, art and obsession” by Paula Hawkins. Published by Picador on May 2nd 2019 and set in London 1850 it is Macneal’s debut novel. I will pop the synopsis below, as usual.
London, 1850. On a crowded street, the dealmaker Iris Whittle meets the artist Louis Frost. Louis is a Pre-Raphaelite painter who yearns to have his work displayed in the Royal Academy, and he is desperate for Iris to be his model. Iris agrees, on the condition that he teaches her to paint.
Dreaming of freedom, Iris throws herself into this new life of art and love, unaware that she has caught the eye of a second man. Silas Reed is a curiosity collector, enchanted by the strange and beautiful. After seeing Iris at the site of the Great Exhibition, he finds he cannot forget her.
As Iris’s world expands, Silas’s obsession grows. It is only a matter of time before they meet again…
The Doll Factory shows us the life of Iris a young woman who, with her twin works in a Doll Factory. She paints the faces of the dolls and Rose, her sister makes their clothes. Iris sneaks away in the night to paint, a love she must hide from everyone including her sister. The one day she is approached by a painter and her world changes. She ends up working with him, so he can paint his dream piece and she can learn. Over time they fall in love and everything is seemingly perfect. However, in the background Silas is biding his time. After meeting Iris once very briefly, he falls in love with her too. Convinced that they are meant to be he plans and imagines how they could be together. It is when Louis leaves Iris alone when things come to fruition. Will Iris get her happy ending, what will happen when her and Silas meet for the first time, that isn’t just in passing…
I don’t want to go into anymore detail, as I don’t want to ruin what happens… But I would just like to start off with the fact that I cannot get my head around Historical Fiction. Every single book from this genre, that I’ve ever tried to read has always either disappointed me or I’ve just not finished it as I couldn’t get into it. However, this book gripped me from the start. For the first time in my life, I actually found myself enjoying a historical fiction novel, and not wanting to put it down. I cannot express how good this book is, without saying that it took someone like me, who isn’t a big fan of this genre and reeled me in and to be honest I’m obsessed.
I loved the relationships between characters. It had that nice balance between the expected romance boy-meets-girl with a twist so as for it not to be cheesy or overdone. The typical love-triangle but with a new fresh face that brings such a dark, gothic and creepy edge to the narrative of the story. The darkness that Macneal brought to Silas actually made my stomach turn when I was reading from his point of view. I felt myself feeling afraid for Iris, for Albie. I really felt like I was inside the novel. I got fully sucked in and everything about the book felt palpable and real.
One thing that I really enjoyed about this book as well, was Iris’s personality. She chased her dreams irregardless of what others deemed “proper” without seeing the full picture. She kept her dignity and poise and became everything she wanted to be despite others telling her she can’t and she shouldn’t. During the bleakest parts of the books for her, she never lost her resolve and she never gave in. I loved that about her character and the fact that she didn’t give up on her sister even though she had said awful things and treated her coldly, she kept trying out of love and forgiveness.
All in all, I adored this book. It took me on a real emotional rollercoaster. I was creeped out, happy, sad, scared, excited, relieved. the character depth was amazing. The plot so well thought out and put together. I have no negative things to say about this book. I couldn’t recommend it more. It definitely was a different kind of read for me and a refreshing surprise that I got into it. It has gave me a new view on this genre and I cannot wait to read more from Macneal. That is for sure.
Star Rating /5