Some historical fiction for the #allthebookreviews duo!
Thanks to Atria Books for the free advanced copies in exchange for our honest reviews
THE DOLL FACTORY – Elizabeth Macneal (out now!)
Obsession is an art.
In this “sharp, scary, gorgeously evocative tale of love, art, and obsession” (Paula Hawkins, bestselling author of The Girl on the Train), a beautiful young woman aspires to be an artist, while a man’s dark obsession may destroy her world forever.
In 1850s London, the Great Exhibition is being erected in Hyde Park and, among the crowd watching the dazzling spectacle, two people meet by happenstance. For Iris, an arrestingly attractive aspiring artist, it is a brief and forgettable moment but for Silas, a curiosity collector enchanted by all things strange and beautiful, the 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 beyond her wildest dreams—but she has no idea that evil is waiting in the shadows. Silas has only thought of one thing since that chance meeting, and his obsession is darkening by the day.
Chandra’s Thoughts: 3/5 stars
Those who have followed me for a while will know that it is no surprise that historical fiction is a hit or miss for me. What used to be one of my least favorite genres has moved up in the ranks exponentially in the last year. The Doll Factory has this sprinkle feeling of AHS’s Freak Show… I hope those who have read this and watched that get where I’m coming from here! haha
I love the premise of this book. The era, the obsession, the art.. all had this subtle touch of sinister during a time when consumption was the rage and men paid to sleep with the dying. Give me ALL the darkness PLEASE. Unfortunately that’s not *quite* what I got. This is definitely a slow burn and I don’t know WHY but I kept mixing Iris and Rose up and confusing myself (but to be fair, that’s definitely more to do with me than the author).
At the end of the day, the writing really is great – it’s just not my particular taste. I wish it actually did get a little bit more dark – even if it was to alter certain characters intentions. The ending I felt like was a segue to something else. But then again, maybe I don’t need that reconciliation. I appreciate completely the arcs of these characters and felt the most for Iris and Albie. While this may not have been an exact reader/book match, I think historical fiction readers who enjoy this tempo and that dark London period will absolutely love this story.
My Thoughts: 3.5/5 stars
So I’m a big fan of historical fiction, and if it’s on the darker side, then that’s a winning combination for me! THE DOLL FACTORY by Elizabeth Macneal is set in Victorian London and we are presented with a unique cast of characters, perfectly detailed surroundings, and obsession and desire in multiple forms.
We are introduced to little Albie, a kid living on the streets that collects dead animals for Silas in exchange for money. Albie’s motives are to help him get a full set of teeth and this desire benefits the taxidermist with aspirations of having his own museum of oddities. We also are introduced to twin sisters, Iris and Rose. They work together for the laudanum (contains opium and morphine) addicted Mrs. Slater. Iris paints the china dolls’ faces while Rose clothes them – but Iris doesn’t want to be stuck where she is forever. When her path crosses with artist Louis Frost, she strikes up a deal with him that she’ll model for him only if he gives her painting lessons.
The greatest obsession? Iris and Silas meet, while something easily forgotten by Iris, it began a deep and dark obsession for Silas. She will be his, and he’ll do anything to make that happen. I think that those readers that are expecting an incredibly dark story throughout might leave disappointed. This is a true historical fiction novel, and towards the end is when the suspense, horror, and pacing really pick up. So if you keep that in mind, then I think you’ll enjoy it more. I was kind of hoping for a little more, but it didn’t take away from the reading experience.
Despite the slower pace, the writing is beautiful and fluid. We get a deep character study and I was impressed by how we could connect with this bigger cast and without anyone getting lost or confused. Macneal set the scene perfectly and transported you straight into the Victorian London era. Overall, if you’re a fan of historical fiction, then I would highly recommend picking this one up!