Tuesday, October 29, 2019

The Doll Factory by Elizabeth MacNeal

Title: The Doll Factory
Author: Elizabeth MacNeal
Read by:  Tuppence Middleton
Publisher: Simon & Shuster Audio
Length: Approximately 10 hours and 55 minutes
Source: Review Copy from Simon & Shuster Audio.  Thank-you!

The Doll Factory is a perfect read for this time of year.  It is the perfect combination of the realism of Victorian England of a Charles Dicken novel with the creepy obsessions of You by Caroline Kepnes.  The Doll Factory is set in 1851 London with the building of the Exhibition in Hyde Park as part of the background of the story.

Iris and her twin sister Rose work in a “doll factory” making dolls for wealthy clients that look like their children – dead or alive.  Iris dreams of breaking fee and becoming an artist in her own right.  When Louis Frost, a member of the pre-Raphaelites asks her to be his model, Iris feels that she has finally found a way out of the doll factory.

Albie is a young orphan who lives with her sister, a teenage prostitute.  He makes money by sewing doll clothes for Iris and finding dead animals for Silas.  Silas is a taxidermist who takes great pride in his work.  He has dreams of having his specimens being shown at the great exhibition.  When he sees Iris one day, he falls in love.  How will the ambitions of all be filled?

This was an intriguing audiobook to listen to and Tuppence Middleton was a wonderful expressive narrator.  I especially loved the author interview that was included at the end of the audiobook.  I hope more audiobooks start to do this!

I loved the descriptions in this novel of the dark depths of Victorian London.  The poverty, filth, and the limited possibilities juxtaposed with the glory, wealthy, and splendor of the Great Exhibition were fascinating to read.

My favorite part of the novel was the journey of Iris.  She wanted to live her dream and have a fulfilling artistic live – which is hard for a woman in Victorian London.  So many people wanted her to be the doll, a beautiful creature to look at, but not to live her own life.   The dolls, butterflies trapped in glass, and women in the paintings carried this same theme through the novel.  I also loved that she was a part of the pre-Raphaelite art movement, which I have read about in the past.  Her and Louis were placed among the real historical painters and I found it fascinating.

I loved how the story opened slowly over time revealing bits and pieces until you can put together the true arc.  I had some items figured out early, but was still surprised by the story.  I don’t want to give anything away, but I will say I found the ending to be immensely satisfying. 

Overall, The Doll Factory was an immensely satisfying tale that perfectly blended suspense, the dark depths of Victorian London, and one woman’s journey to artistic fulfillment.

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