‘A sharp, scary, gorgeously evocative tale of love, art and obsession’ Paula Hawkins, author of The Girl on the Train
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 . . .
HERE ARE MY THOUGHTS AND REVIEW
I loved the cover of this book but didn’t realise until I finished it just how much of the story is captured in the globe. When you do know, then its contents become so much more sinister. Set in 1850 debut author Elizabeth Macneal brings to life a bustling London with its sweatshops, wheeler-dealing kids and local psycho in this gothic tale of horrors.
The story is told by three of the characters, Iris a beautiful woman that was destined to see her life out painting faces on dolls but she is a gifted artist, a rough diamond that just needs the polishing to achieve her hidden potential. Albie, a child much older than his years with a dream of owning a set of teeth to replace the ones he doesn’t have any more after more than one mishap. And finally Silas, a collector, maker, and seller of unusual things. This sad, lonely rather disturbing man gave me ‘a fifty shades of’ experience, the sort that turns your hair gradually to white with the last 50 pages of the story. Oh my is this creepy!
The three main characters all have their own desires and obsessions, Iris to paint, Albie his teeth and Silas something much darker as I found out from the chapters about their past and present lives. This is captivating reading that made me curl up a little tighter on my sofa and snuggle into a comfort blanket. The contrasts of the gloom and filth are set against a background where thousands of pounds were being spent in Hyde Park erecting The Great Exhibition but it gave even the poorest a buzz. The working classes and the wealthy were miles apart, with huge sums of money changing hands that would have kept a family out of poverty for years.
This is a stunning debut not to be missed. I wish to thank NetGalley and the publisher for an e-copy of this book which I have reviewed honestly.
HERE IS A LITTLE 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.