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Title: The Doll Factory
Author: Elizabeth Macneal
Publisher: Atria/Emily Bestler Books
Publish Date: August 13, 2019
Genre: Historical Fiction
My Rating: 3/5
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.
Two sisters, Iris and Rose, paint dolls for a living. Iris dreams of being an artist, and gets the chance to leave her oppressed working conditions. Rose is jealous, and doesn’t want Iris to have a better life than her. The better opportunity is to model for a painter, and in exchange, he will teach her to paint. Meanwhile, Silas, a taxidermist, see Iris and becomes infatuated with her. She is too preoccupied with other things to notice him. That leads to her becoming trapped in his dark obsession.
The setting of 1850s Victorian London is dark and dramatic. Iris’s life is bleak, and her journey to improving her life is interesting. She has no support, and takes a big chance by attempting to be an artist. Silas, the man obsessed with Iris, slows descends into madness when Iris rejects his advances. Both make for intriguing characters.
Complex characters in a slow-burning historical thriller. Grim, creepy, and atmospheric.