Good morning my loves!
Today is a review post that I am really excited to share. I read this book in the month of May and I haven’t stopped thinking about it since then. It has rapidly become a favourite of all time for me and I’ve been raving about it to anyone that’ll listen (and even ones that don’t!) The book is The Doll Factory by the exceptional Author Elizabeth Macneal.
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 knew I would love this book. It has little bits of all of the things I love, all of the things that I think make a great novel. The first being that it is set in Victorian England – which I have become particularly obsessed with of late – against the backdrop of the Great Exhibition. The second, the characters are so fully formed it is easy to imagine yourself there, working alongside them in the doll shop, creating curiosities for the Great Exhibition, and running errands with the hope of buying something that he has been praying for since he could remember.
We begin the story with Iris, a striking red-head who works, alongside her sister, at a doll shop on Regent Street. By day she paints the eerily lifelike faces on to china dolls, by night she creates her own art with paper and paints using the money she has been secretly squirreling away.
When Iris meets Louis Frost, a member of the pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood, she feels as though her life had taken a turn for the better. Louis offers Iris a job, if she will model for his painting and in return, he will tutor her.
But things are not all rosy. While Iris is living her dream, someone is watching her. Enter Silas Reed, a taxidermist with an obsession with creepy curiosities and now, an obsession with Iris.
I feel that this part of the review is going to be completely incoherent. Let me tell you about little Albie. I can’t really say much without giving the story away, but he is the most endearing character that I have ever read. Never have I had so much empathy and felt so much sadness for someone that doesn’t exist outside of the printed word. All Albie wants, is a set of false teeth. Oh Albie, I’m still thinking about you, even now.
Please please PLEASE read this book. I absolutely adored it.
Peace and pages