ARC Review – The Doll Factory by Elizabeth Macneal

Title: The Doll Factory

Author: Elizabeth Macneal

Year of Publication: 2019

Genre: Historical Fiction

Number of Pages: 336

The Doll FactorySummary: From Goodreads: “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 . . .”

Review: Thank you to the publisher and Net Galley for providing me with an advanced copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. I apologize for taking such a long time to read and review it.

I read this book a few months ago with some other bloggers, and I am incredibly grateful for them and our weekly discussions because I don’t think I would have finished this book without them.

I went into this book not remembering what it was about, but I was expecting some nice Historical Fiction with lots of art thrown in. What I got instead was sections with some nice Historical Fiction and art and other sections that were ripped out of an episode of Criminal Minds.

I want to start off by talking about the characters. I have mixed feelings about Iris. At some moments, I loved her, and I was in awe of her independence and determination. At other points, I wanted to scream because she was making some awful decisions. I liked Louis, and though he had his frustrating moments, I thought he was a fairly consistent character. Albie was an absolute sweetheart, and I was rooting for him throughout the book. Silas is by far one of the most repulsive and horrendous characters I have ever encountered, and as far as I’m concerned, he has no redeeming qualities. The best character in this book is Guinevere, she is a wombat, and she is delightful.

As far as the plot goes, I loved some parts of the story and hated other parts. I loved the parts told from Iris’s perspective that focused on art, Louis, and the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood. I loved reading the scenes where Iris and Louis were painting and watching Iris improve as an artist. I don’t know very much about art, but parts of this book made me want to look into the Pre-Raphaelite movement. I also enjoyed reading a book set in London during the 1850s because this is a period I’m not very familiar with.

I absolutely hated the parts told from Silas’s perspective. He is such a creepy and unlikable character, and his parts made me want to stop reading the book. I generally find taxidermy to be creepy, but reading about it from his perspective, turned me off completely. There were far too many dead animals in his section, and it made me uncomfortable. His obsession with Iris was something pulled out of an episode of Criminal Minds, and I’m surprised that I didn’t give up on this book.

Another thing that bothered me about this book was the number of characters thrown in just to create conflict or move the story along. It was a lot to keep track of at times, especially because some characters appeared for a few pages and then wouldn’t show up again until 100 pages later.

Overall, I have mixed feelings about this book. If the parts with Silas were removed, I’d probably give it 4 or 4.5 stars because the art aspect was wonderful. However, Silas plays a huge role in this book, and his creepiness was too much for me. I also found the ending to be underwhelming, and it made me want to throw my Kindle across the room.

Rating: 3 Stars!

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