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I would say observing It s an important skill for an artist The Doll Factory by Elizabeth MacnealI am editing this because I want to be clear This is a good book but NOT FOR ME Different books are for different people Were it not for the Taxidermist and killing of an animal, graphic scenes of stuffing animals ETC I would have most likely given this a higher rating And I did read most of it although I cannot even say how much I skimmed or ignored entirely because of this issue If these I would say observing It s an important skill for an artist The Doll Factory by Elizabeth MacnealI am editing this because I want to be clear This is a good book but NOT FOR ME Different books are for different people Were it not for the Taxidermist and killing of an animal, graphic scenes of stuffing animals ETC I would have most likely given this a higher rating And I did read most of it although I cannot even say how much I skimmed or ignored entirely because of this issue If these things DO NOT bother you, you may indeed like this book I skimmed to finish Not the writer s fault She writes beautifully But I cannot read a book with intense animal cruelty that starts literally on page one I do understand the main character is a taxidermist but there is such focus on what he does to the animals He also thinks nothing of murdering an animal to work on it in his store It was all a bit much I love Historical Fiction and I love Gothic novels which is what I understood this book to be and in a sense it is but did not know how brutal it was and most importantly the unrelenting scenes of dead animals were nauseating and really interfered with any enjoyment of this book As I said, it is well written, beautifully written actually, but is not at all for people who loath graphic scenes of Taxidermy, animals being murdered, and animal brutality as it is pretty much through the whole book I am not one who stops reading all that easily and I have read books with one or two scenes of animal brutality and I usually dock a star but this is unrelenting, throughout the book and I wish I had lookedclosely on what it was about My mistake.I would also describe this asof a Horror Gothic then Traditional Historical Fiction.It isgeared toward Horror in my opinion then even Gothic This is a pretty twisted story that made me think of the show American Horror story.She writes beautifully about the time period and the book is genuinely frightening at some points I understand why it has such positive reviews as if one likes Historical Gothic fiction and do not have issues such as I described that would like this most likely.In short..I made a mistake with this one Not for me at all The Doll Factory imagines an 1850 London that could easily have been written by Dickens We see Albie, the street urchin with but a single tooth, who collects dead animals for Silas, a taxidermist and a collector who dreams of having his own museum of oddities Twin sisters, Iris and Rose, paint and cloth china dolls for Mrs Salter, their laudanum addicted mistress When Iris meets Louis Frost, a pre Raphaelite painter, she strikes a bargain with him to model in exchange for painting lessons T The Doll Factory imagines an 1850 London that could easily have been written by Dickens We see Albie, the street urchin with but a single tooth, who collects dead animals for Silas, a taxidermist and a collector who dreams of having his own museum of oddities Twin sisters, Iris and Rose, paint and cloth china dolls for Mrs Salter, their laudanum addicted mistress When Iris meets Louis Frost, a pre Raphaelite painter, she strikes a bargain with him to model in exchange for painting lessons The book does a good job of conveying the limitations of being a woman in Victorian England Iris wants to be an artist, but it seems everyone, even Louis, sees her as an object MacNeal has an eye for detail I m always entranced by writers that can translate the creation of art to the written work and MacNeal does it perfectly As the book goes on, it gets darker and scarier and the pace picks up Silas obsession with Iris consumes him He s an odd one from the beginning, but as the book progresses, he becomes positively mad This one is not for the faint of heart My thanks to netgalley and Atria Books for an advance copy of this book This novel is a winner for me The 1850 London, where pre Raphaelites shook the artistic world, where a young woman is tired of painting dolls and wants to express herself in real art, London where a little boy collects money by bringing carcases of dead animals to a most peculiar taxidermist in order to buy false teeth for himself and who also looks after his sister, and London that is preparing for the Great Exhibition, is the place that I found fascinating while reading, and at the same time This novel is a winner for me The 1850 London, where pre Raphaelites shook the artistic world, where a young woman is tired of painting dolls and wants to express herself in real art, London where a little boy collects money by bringing carcases of dead animals to a most peculiar taxidermist in order to buy false teeth for himself and who also looks after his sister, and London that is preparing for the Great Exhibition, is the place that I found fascinating while reading, and at the same time somehow appalling The Author did a grand job incorporating many peculiarities of the Victorian England into the plot, for instance, take the macabre idea of taking pictures of the departed children and painting so called mourning dolls to put on their graves or collecting everything that can be collected, inThe characters in this novel are portrayed wonderfully, their actions and desires expressed in such a way that I was not left indifferent, and I was together with them in the doll shop, in the artist studio or in the basement full of curiosities, some of which truly morbid I felt for Albie, a small boy who is saving up to buy false teeth for himself as he had just one fang left , and looking after his elder sister as well as he can Iris Whittle is a wonderful heroine, desperate to achieve her goals despite ostracism And Silas I believe he is one of the most frightening and abhorrent characters I have come across in gothic novels And the Pre Raphaelite Brotherhood I loved the idea of Iris meeting Louis Frost, one of the members, and I feel they are an ideal match, in love and in art.I am not going to miss another offering by Ms Macneal NO SPOILERSThis Victorian era.fusion drama gets creepier and creepier.with a climactic ending A reader who chooses this novel is getting the deli deluxe combo sandwich with added secret ingredients whether you want them or not..along with.gothic noir.historical fiction a tribute to art, artists and London during the Victorian era, 1850 1851and an education understanding of pre Raphael.creations made in a doll shop.a Great exhibition in Hyde Park.rom NO SPOILERSThis Victorian era.fusion drama gets creepier and creepier.with a climactic ending A reader who chooses this novel is getting the deli deluxe combo sandwich with added secret ingredients whether you want them or not..along with.gothic noir.historical fiction a tribute to art, artists and London during the Victorian era, 1850 1851and an education understanding of pre Raphael.creations made in a doll shop.a Great exhibition in Hyde Park.romance jealousy love death ambition dazzling crowds of people poverty class brotherhood pioneer female artist sensuality mystery horror art appreciation tragedy animal cruelty.a dark haunting atmospheric setting.a psychological crime thriller with icon oddity characters.a sociopath sinister taxidermist sells stuffed mice and birds to artists with a frightening love obsession.a drug addicted mad woman.twin sisters each with different compelling characteristics and family backgrounds one with a slight birth defect the other later disfiguredan up and coming painterand.an urchin orphan boy who finds dead things to bring to the taxidermist I have mixed thoughts about this DELUXE COMBO novel because although the story pulled me along it s gripping and thought provoking pathwith very unique intriguing characters.it s not a book I would go out of my way to recommend.because of how creepy disturbing and nightmarish some parts are I learned some history and came away with an appreciation for an era I knew little about I appreciate the creativity..Respect the storytellingIt s very well writtenMuch is enjoyable but definitely not for squeamish worriers TalentArtobsessionlovepovertypossibilityyearningGothicVictorianAll words which can be used to describe The Doll Factory, a Gothic Victorian tale set in London in 1850 When Iris, an aspiring artist meets Louis, pre Raphaelite artist she agrees to model for him in exchange for painting lessons She spends her days painting doll faces and years forSilas has also met Iris and he has plans of his own dark plans which lead to obsession.This is a dark tale that often h TalentArtobsessionlovepovertypossibilityyearningGothicVictorianAll words which can be used to describe The Doll Factory, a Gothic Victorian tale set in London in 1850 When Iris, an aspiring artist meets Louis, pre Raphaelite artist she agrees to model for him in exchange for painting lessons She spends her days painting doll faces and years forSilas has also met Iris and he has plans of his own dark plans which lead to obsession.This is a dark tale that often had me thinking how lucky I am to live in this day and age For me this was a little slow to start but soon things began to pick up as I learned the characters, their nuances, hopes, dreams, and obsessions Although this book never completely knocked me off my feet or reading chair I enjoyed the Gothic feel and the downward spiral of obsession Then there is the ending..hmmmwas I the only one thinking what happens next quickly followed by what just happened I found the ending to be nothing short of abrupt The ending had me wantingbut also helped me to feel what most of the characters in this book were feeling, most wanted teaching,love, a better life, a better way to survive, to be a family, to have what one covets most The setting was fabulous and the characters intense, with a dark, gloomy atmospheric vibe throughout Thank you to Atria books and NetGalley who provided me a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review All the thoughts and opinions are my own When the streets are at the darkest and quitest, a girl settles at a small desk in the cellar of a dollmaker s shop A bald china head sits in front of her and watches her with a vacant stare She squeezes red and white watercolours on to an oyster shell, sucks the end of her brush, and adjusts the looking glass before her The candle hisses The girl narrows her eyes at the black paperLondon, 1850 As the great metropolis is preparing for an illustrious event, three characters discoveWhen the streets are at the darkest and quitest, a girl settles at a small desk in the cellar of a dollmaker s shop A bald china head sits in front of her and watches her with a vacant stare She squeezes red and white watercolours on to an oyster shell, sucks the end of her brush, and adjusts the looking glass before her The candle hisses The girl narrows her eyes at the black paperLondon, 1850 As the great metropolis is preparing for an illustrious event, three characters discover their lives are unexpectedly, irrevocably interconnected A young woman, gifted with talent and bravery, tries to escape a life of tyranny and follow her vocation A painter, member of the Pre Raphaelite Brotherhood, searches for inspiration and a place in the Great Exhibition A shady collector, who lives in his own world of make believe, searches for the next item to be displayed In the streets of a city where darkness and light take part in a daily battle, a story of obsession and darkness unfolds this exquisite novel has entered my personal Historical Fiction pantheon Because it is perfect.Elizabeth Macneal uses the theme of Art to comment on how perceptions and make believe can alter a person s life Within the London society, the belly of the beast, young women are forced either to bow to their families notion of identity or rebel and end up in a lice infested brother or the poorhouse No one cares whether they are gifted with extraordinary talent, no one listens to their wishes In a society that vilifies the poor and worships the corrupted nobility, appearance and a problematic idea of respectability is everything Iris has to rebel against the family and decides to follow the changing era that hesitantly begins to make a difference The universe of Art isn t free of its own prejudices and stereotypes but, if nothing else, it provides a kind of freedom that women are not allowed in the respectable part of a society that cannot face the facts.When a novel is set in London, the city becomes a character I will use the phrase a Dickens of our times because Macneal s pen raises London out of the pages and the capital comes alive in front of our eyes Silas s devilish presence echoes the dangers that can be found in any era, in any city The psychopath, the evil, the threat that appears when you least expect it Lies, insecurity, battling against the world of men, everything is necessary when you find the chance to escape a life dictated by othersI am not some ladiesIris is the heart of this striking story, a character of her time without becoming a caricature of the boring pseudo feisty heroine that is only a period copycat of the same old, same old novels Her spirit and her honesty, her determination and resilience are characteristics of a protagonist you can root for Unless you are narrow minded in which case this book is not for you There is definite darkness in the novel, a Gothic mystery, a horror story that requires a strong mind I adore the concept of taxidermy, it fascinates me to no end and Macneal uses it to perfection to create a powerful atmosphere that turns you into an observer who has to witness everything, unable to react, to warn or rescue You just stand there, in awe, hoping Hope is never far away, even in the corners of a dark, dirty, violent city that gives and takes, nourishes and kills The Doll Factory is one of those novels that I call brave reads It is purely Victorian, an accurate and acute study of the era and the themes of womanhood and self preservation, of freedom and strength Yes, it is violent Of course it is, the era requires it, life itself requires it and the finest stories are not created out of silly happiness, pink clouds and cliches The stories that endure are born out of the human soul and its incredible, inexplicable depth Humans suffer, animals suffer in real life Why should books be any different when they are the mirrors of societies over the centuries If you are a brave reader who demands complex and confident stories, The Doll Factory is one of the finest Historical Fiction novels you ll ever readDead, dead, all dead My reviews can also be found on Happy pub day to this creepy blend of hist fic and mystery The Doll Factory is set in 1850s London The Great Exhibition is going up on Hyde Park It s an art exhibition and among the crowd watching the event are Iris and Silas, who meet by chance Iris is an aspiring artist and Silas is collector of curiosities and a taxidermist creepy Iris does not think much of the meeting, but to Silas, it s a point of importance Iris is asked to model for Louis Frost, and she agrees if he will Happy pub day to this creepy blend of hist fic and mystery The Doll Factory is set in 1850s London The Great Exhibition is going up on Hyde Park It s an art exhibition and among the crowd watching the event are Iris and Silas, who meet by chance Iris is an aspiring artist and Silas is collector of curiosities and a taxidermist creepy Iris does not think much of the meeting, but to Silas, it s a point of importance Iris is asked to model for Louis Frost, and she agrees if he will teach her how to paint This is only the beginning for Iris as she sees doors opening for her and her passion for art However, Silas is only thinking of Iris, and his thoughts are obsessive, dark, and sinister I LOVED the Victorian London setting Macneal brings it vividly to life The tone is dark The Gothic elements are strong and haunting Silas oozes creepiness Admittedly, there were some parts that were too dark for me, and I had to skim over those There is something for everyone in The Doll Factory It s frightening and well paced I loved the art references and the writing flows smoothly The obsession and darkness of it all is drawn so well I was gripped and found the entire read compelling Overall, The Doll Factory is a chilling piece of equal parts historical fiction and mystery It s a page turner, and I adored it, though it completely creeped me out I received a complimentary copy All opinions are my own TW due to the taxidermy, please be aware there were some animal scenes I had to skip over Many of my reviews can also be found on my blog www.jennifertarheelreader.com 3.5 StarsI was lured into reading this book because of its locale and time period Victorian London , the Dickensian gothic atmosphere, and the promise of all things weird This book delivered on all fronts.The main character is Iris, who with her twin sister Rose works in a porcelain doll shop in London The apprenticeship was set up by their parents The establishment is sandwiched in between other storefronts, one of which is a bakery, resulting in sugary scents wafting into their shop Iri 3.5 StarsI was lured into reading this book because of its locale and time period Victorian London , the Dickensian gothic atmosphere, and the promise of all things weird This book delivered on all fronts.The main character is Iris, who with her twin sister Rose works in a porcelain doll shop in London The apprenticeship was set up by their parents The establishment is sandwiched in between other storefronts, one of which is a bakery, resulting in sugary scents wafting into their shop Iris has artistic talent, and is responsible for painting the faces on the dolls Rose sews the garments to clothe the dolls However, a street urchin named Albie has sewing work outsourced to him, which he brings to the shop regularly for payment Iris and Rose were both beautiful, tall and with long, bountiful auburn hair However, Iris has a slight deformity of her collarbone which was broken during birth and never healed correctly Rose s fate was muchcruel Once the fairer of the two sisters, after contracting smallpox her skin has a purplish cast and is ruined with crater scars She clings to Iristhan ever, her chance for marriage non existent Albie is my favorite character in the book His tale is heartbreaking, yet he never gives up He s a hard worker, resourceful, good hearted, and has a great survival instinct He also is a loyal brother to his sister, who works as a prostitute in a seedy basement brothel, her being the cheapest option in the house He is forever chided for the one front tooth left in his mouth and called Fang He dreams of buying a set of false teeth, saving whatever he can scavenge towards that goal In addition to sewing little skirts for the porcelain doll shop, he also bags dead animals for a very strange man named Silas Reed Silas has a taxidermy shop with items such as birds frozen in flight, dressed up mice, butterflies under glass, and skeletal remains Artists sometimes procure items such as a stuffed dove or a dog to use in their paintings There are sometimes strange and unpleasant odors around his shop due to the rotting remains of the animals he works on, depending how careful he has been maintaining things For on occasion Silas has been distracted obsessed and angered with women, and has suffered abuse as a child He s a lifelong victim of rejection, beginning with his mother Now he has focused his sights on Iris Initially riveted by the subtle disfigurement of her collarbone, he is now swept away by her overall beauty Iris s beauty has also been noticed by a painter named Louis who wants her to be his model Iris is dazzled by Louis s attractive home which houses his art studio, but is conflicted by the thought of leaving her sister alone at the doll shop Also, her parents will disown her entirely if she adopts the scandalous job position of painter s model Yet, she yearns to leave the depressing environs of the doll shop and also wishes to explore her own burgeoning talent as a painter.This is London during the time of Queen Victoria, and the Great Exhibition is taking place in Hyde Park Both Louis and his fellow artist group and Silas have pieces on display for this exhibition, and hopes are high for a positive reception There are dark themes in this story such as prostitution, poverty, animal abuse, murder, and mental illness This book reminded me a bit of a movie from 1965 called The Collector There is the terror of evil pursuit, entrapment, and a twisted mind Quite frankly, if I wasn t reading reviewing this for the publisher, I possibly would have put this aside for something else However, the story was written well enough to keep me hanging on.Thank you to the publisher Atria Books who provided an advance reader copy via NetGalley This is an unforgettable piece of chilling and gothic historical fiction, the debut from Elizabeth Macneal, set in the Victorian era She writes an atmospheric and beautifully constructed story of art, ambition, a deranged obsession, love and horror, amidst the poverty, class divisions and entrenched inequalities, squalor, culture, scientific developments, and the prevalent social norms and attitudes of the time, such as the way women were treated Iris and her sister, Rose live humdrum lives pa This is an unforgettable piece of chilling and gothic historical fiction, the debut from Elizabeth Macneal, set in the Victorian era She writes an atmospheric and beautifully constructed story of art, ambition, a deranged obsession, love and horror, amidst the poverty, class divisions and entrenched inequalities, squalor, culture, scientific developments, and the prevalent social norms and attitudes of the time, such as the way women were treated Iris and her sister, Rose live humdrum lives painting dolls for the laudanum addicted Mrs Salter Life has not been easy for the sisters, Iris has ambitions to be an artist, but is not supported by her family in this It is 1850, the year of the Great Exhibition, and Iris has what is for her an inconsequential encounter with the odd and strange Silas, a troubled taxidermist with his shop of curiosities, visited by the medical profession and artists For the lonely Silas, it is to mark the start of an all encompassing obsession that is to become increasingly delusional as in his mind, Iris feels as he does.Iris encounters the Pre Raphaelite artist, Louis Frost, who wants Iris to model for him, and which provides Iris with the opportunity she has been seeking to escape her suffocating life and social class and, realise her dreams She asks Louis to provide her with art lessons, and he acquiesces, with Iris painting in secret In a increasingly dark and disturbing narrative, Iris begins to have increasing feelings for Louis, but the disturbed Silas has other plans The author skilfully captures this historical period with her rich and evocative descriptions, the Pre Raphaelite brotherhood, the science, and in her diverse cast of characters Her characterisation of Silas is stellar, he feels like a real and authentic character in all his madness, and I adored the young bright street child, Albie, with his understandable desire for a set of teeth I found this a gripping story, particularly in the last part where it becomesthriller than just pure historical fiction It is an unsettling and disturbing immersive read, with its elements of horror, ideal for those who love historical fiction set in Victorian times Highly recommended Many thanks to Pan Macmillan for an ARC ^FREE DOWNLOAD ☆ The Doll Factory ☔ The Doll Factory, the debut novel by Elizabeth Macneal, is an intoxicating story of art, obsession and possessionLondonThe 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 loveBut Silas has only thought of one thing since their meeting, and his obsession is darkening