The Doll Factory by Elizabeth Macneal isn’t out until 2nd May but I just couldn’t wait to post a spoiler-free review now. Trust me, this is going to be the biggest book out this year.
This is a book that has been talked about a lot. It was in a massive auction with publishers, sold to a huge number of different languages, the TV rights already sold… it’s a book that is gaining more and more momentum. I was so excited to have a proof copy of this book, coming Christmas Eve (what a great Christmas present!) and started reading it immediately. So, what’s it actually about? Here’s the blurb:
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 . . .
Sound good? I’m not a huge fan of historical fiction, to be honest. I like the idea of reading the genre but actually reading it? Not so sure… but it’s something I want to read more this year and I’m already making good progress on that. For me, I need an interesting story, yes, but it’s the characters I crave for – in any genre. The Doll Factory is a delight of a novel. Beautifully constructed characters and a great and interesting plot. It did take me a while to get into it, but once I did, I was hooked.
Elizabeth Macneal is a beautiful and confident writer. Her prose is just beautiful. One of the things I loved the most is the way Macneal wrote about London in 1850. I could see it, smell it, taste it, almost touch it. It is so visceral (as is the entire novel) and it really immerses yourself into the world of that era. It’s wonderfully atmospheric and almost becomes another character in the novel – I just loved it.
I also loved Iris as a character. I thought she was written brilliantly and I think Macneal has captured something very special with Iris. An interesting aspect of the novel I enjoyed reading was the relationship between Iris and her sister, Rose. This relationship is tense, dramatic and full of layers. I really enjoyed reading that relationship develop as the novel continued. One of my favourite characters has to be Albie. I just loved everything about Albie and his story. Another interesting character is Silas. Without giving too much away, Silas is a dark character that obsesses over Iris – but how far will he take his obsession? I thought Silas was written in such an interesting way and had a lot of different layers to his character, especially as seen as the ‘villain’ of the novel. Macneal has created real, raw, established characters that are so rich and full of colour, they leap off the page.
There are a lot of interesting and brilliant themes at play in this novel. Art is a big one that carries on throughout the novel which I think you can interpret the novel in terms of art in a number of different ways. There’s also themes on: love, family, death, heartbreak, imprisonment, obsession and many more. Macneal captures all of this *so* perfectly and the ending is so satisfying but still makes you wanting more…
This novel really is going to be huge when it’s released next year. It’s a novel that immerses you into Victorian London in the most brilliant way possible. Macneal has created some brilliant characters (especially Albie, Iris and Silas) against the backdrop of London in the Victorian era while also exploring themes of art, love, obsession and finding your voice – it’s a treasure of a novel, and one I can’t wait to see flourish and break free in the big wide world.
The Doll Factory by Elizabeth Macneal is published by Picador and is published in hardback, ebook and audiobook on the 2nd May 2019. A big thank you to Camilla for my proof copy! I hope you will love it as much as I did – it really is something special. Definitely one to watch!