The Doll Factory – Elizabeth MacNeal

Published By: Picador
Pages: 336
Date Released: 02/05/2019

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.


I started reading this a couple of years ago, but one thing lead to another, and I ended up forgetting about it half way through. Its beautiful cover caught my eye once again so I decided to start it anew. A few chapters in and I couldn’t remember why I ever put it down in the first place.

Elizabeth’s characters are so real that even after I’d finished, I didn’t want to leave them.

Iris is a lost soul for whom life has dealt bad cards to. Silas is a man in his own world, shunned from the rest of society. They are two people who should never have met, but once they do, there’s no going back, for either of them.

Whilst Iris grows into herself and her character, Silas sulks more into the darkness, truthfully believing the madness in his mind.

This is a richly gothic novel that gets more frightening as it goes on. It is gripping from the off and fully immerses the reader in such a truthfully depicted 1850 that you could be writing a novel written by Charles Dickens himself. 

I am so glad I picked this up again and I look forward to anything else Elizabeth MacNeal writes.

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