THE DOLL FACTORY

372 pages
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BY ELIZABETH MACNEAL

372 pages

This astonishing debut novel from Elizabeth Macneal is a breath-taking historical thriller set during 1850’s Victorian England with its own wonderfully individual and evocative feel. 

 

Iris is determined to make her mark as an artist and escape her mundane work as a china doll face painter for Mrs Salter’s Doll Emporium in Regent Street, where she works with her twin sister. Against the wishes of her family, she agrees to become the model for Louis Frost, a charismatic young artist who forms part of the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood, a group of exciting young artists hoping to have their paintings accepted for the grand Royal Academy Summer Exhibition. In return for being his model, Louis agrees to teach Iris to paint. 

 

Silas is a loner who runs a curiosities antique shop and workshop, collecting and preserving stuffed animals, skulls and butterflies - of the fashion at this time. He too hopes to have his work accepted for the summer exhibition and dreams his collection will one day be famous. He becomes obsessed with Iris after a chance meeting through Albie, a street urchin and mutual acquaintance. As Silas becomes the ultimate daring stalker so Iris’s life is seriously endangered.

 

Set against the vivid and vibrant backdrop of Victorian London and its slums we are on tender-hooks to await Iris's fate and discover whether her loved ones will be able to come to her rescue before it's too late.

 

The Den thought this was a fabulous, gripping novel with its own unique feel. The macabre world Macneal creates is reminiscent of Dickens as she takes us with these flawed characters, through the familiar streets of London. The high life and excitement of the evolving art world is set against the underlying poverty and Albie is a poignant reminder of the lengths children endured in Victorian England to survive. An astonishing debut.

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