The Sunday Times Bestseller - As read on BBC Radio 4 A BBC Radio 2 Book Club Choice 2019
'A sharp, scary, gorgeously evocative tale of love, art and obsession' - Paula Hawkins, author of The Girl on the Train
The Doll Factory by Elizabeth Macneal is the intoxicating story of a young woman who aspires to be an artist, and the man whose obsession may destroy her world for ever.
London. 1850. The greatest spectacle the city has ever seen is being built in Hyde Park, and among the crowd watching 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 . . .
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A remarkable example of historical fiction . . . full of life, colour and intelligence * Sunday Times * Stunningly confident . . . thoroughly engrossing -- Ian Rankin One of this year's best debuts tells the story of Iris, an aspiring artist in 1850s London . . . A clever and gripping read * Times * Fantastic - vivid, poignant, colourful, and elegantly horrifying -- Bridget Collins, author of The Binding Macneal is excellent on the tension between idealised women and the reality . . . The Doll Factory is a remarkably strong debut; clever and readable with flashes of wonderful, descriptive prose -- Book of the Month * The Times * Astounding . . . I recommend it wholeheartedly -- Jo Whiley, BBC Radio 2 Book Club This brilliant literary thriller gripped me from the opening page . . . a beautifully researched historical novel with a plot to stop your heart -- Hannah Kent, author of Burial Rites and The Good People This is a dark delight and fans of The Miniaturist and The Mermaid and Mrs Hancock will love it * Red Magazine * There is hardly an aspect of Victorian London that Macneal has not mastered in her lush, evocative Gothic, which chronicles a sadistic taxidermist's sinister obsession with an impoverished young painter . . . a harrowing and bewitching adventure * The New York Times Book Review * Vividly rendered . . . captivating . . . engrossing * Evening Standard * Bewitching and disturbing by turns, The Doll Factory is a glorious gothic romance -- Laura Purcell, author of The Silent Companions I've missed subway stops to finish a book, but this is the first time I almost missed a plane. . . a perfect blend of froth and substance . . . a fascinating portrait of a talented young woman trying to negotiate the impossible sexual standards of her era: To acquire the skills she needs, Iris must endure society's approbation, and to enjoy the romance she craves, she must keep her talent subordinate to her lover's . . . magical storytelling -- Ron Charles * Washington Post * I loved The Doll Factory from the very first page . . . an exquisite novel of obsession, delusion, resilience and love . . . breathtaking -- AJ Pearce, author of Dear Mrs Bird Magnificent . . . features an extraordinary, unforgettable cast of characters . . . you can't help but be entranced by this uniquely evocative and arresting story . . . the tension ramps up to a breathtaking climax . . . if you love books like The Mermaid and Mrs Hancock, Tulip Fever and Perfume then add The Doll Factory to your reading list * Daily Express * A deliciously gothic concoction that abounds with energy and imagination, conjuring up 1850s London life in all its Dickensian glory. Macneal marries art, obsession and possession in a plot that gains momentum and leaves the reader breathless * Daily Mail * Brilliant . . . refreshingly original . . . beautifully orchestrated . . . fascinating -- Andrew Taylor, No. 1 Sunday Times bestselling author of The Ashes of London and The American Boy Astonishingly good . . . with and a plot that rattles like a speeding carriage to its thrilling conclusion. I couldn't put it down. You won't be able to either -- Elizabeth Day, author of The Party The summer's hottest author . . . at once a love story and a thriller . . . Iris is a fierce creation. She chafes against the Victorian constraints on her freedom, carves out her own space in the male art world * Sunday Times * Stunning . . . with an unbearably tense and chilling denouement that had me totally gripped -- Sophie Mackintosh, Man Booker Prize longlisted author of The Water Cure Elegantly plotted . . . compelling and chilling * The i * Exquisitely executed, well-researched and richly evocative . . . a fast-paced, inventive ride through the dirt and squalor of Victorian London * Mail on Sunday * Exquisite . . . authentic and suspenseful * Woman & Home * Pretty much everything you could want from a book set in Victorian London . . . terrific storytelling . . . Ever since the success of The Essex Serpent, there's been no shortage of good modern gothic novels. The Doll Factory might just be the best yet -- James Walton * Reader's Digest * One of the best books I've read in ages - heartbreaking and evocative . . . a perfectly structured and page-turning story of love and passion; crime and obsession . . . wonderful -- Jenny Quintana, author of The Missing Girl Remarkably assured and beautifully written . . . truly captivating -- E C Fremantle, author of The Poison Bed This dark, enchanting tale is beautifully written. We couldn't put it down * Take a Break * A brilliant literary thriller that you won't want to put down * Surrey Life * [A] gripping historical thriller . . . Macneal paints a masterpiece with her vivid descriptions, and the conclusion will have you racing to the end -- Book of the Week * Woman's Weekly * A vivid depiction of a morally dubious world, and a page-turning psychological thriller, with a truly compelling villain -- Essie Fox, author of The Somnambulist Gripping, artfully written . . . part love story, part gothic novel and leading up to a truly breathless conclusion, this book is destined to be one of the biggest titles of 2019 -- Sharlene Teo, author of Ponti Darkly brilliant - The Collector meets Possessionwith added female power -- Anna Mazzola, author of The Unseeing and The Story Keeper Engrossing and atmospheric . . . I can practically see the TV version! -- Adele Geras, author of The Ballet Class A sharp, scary, gorgeously evocative tale of love, art and obsession -- Paula Hawkins, author of The Girl on the Train In its evocation of the seething energy of 1850s London, its immersion in the detail of the 19th-century city's everyday life and in its fascination with the macabre and the eccentric, Elizabeth Macneal's debut novel does feel genuinely Dickensian. Add a keen exploration of the restrictions that were placed on women and the possessiveness of men, and you get a remarkable example of historical fiction . . . In Macneal's novel, Iris is condemned to be imprisoned by men's ideas of her . . . a story full of life, colour and intelligence * Sunday Times * The sort of book you want to read curled up by a fire while your fingers twitch to find out what happens next -- Rowan Hisayo Buchanan, author of Harmless Like You Macneal has a magpie's eye for whatever is bright and glittering, and she writes vividly * Scotsman * Memorable * Herald * Gripping -- India Knight, Sunday Times Emotionally and intellectually engaging, Elizabeth Macneal's debut is a stunner . . . both a page-turning thriller and a thoughtful, moving exploration of what it meant to be a woman and an artist in the 19th century . . . perfectly paced and richly atmospheric . . . deeply moving . . . I literally couldn't put it down for the final breathtakingly tense 70 pages . . . utterly gripping * Irish Times * Artistic and scientific progress are on the march - and yet, in the little alleyways and twittens off the great London streets, poverty, dirt and inconceivable hardship hold back huge numbers of their inhabitants. Albie, a small boy with a single tooth, dreams of hand-made dentures and rescuing his sister from a brothel; Silas, a taxidermist, dreams of showing his work in the Great Exhibition. Every character is painted with intense clarity, so that we look over their shoulders and through their eyes. Brilliant, terrifying, evocative, impossible to stop reading. * The Tablet * Brilliant, terrifying, evocative, impossible to stop reading * The Tablet * An atmospheric book that will stay with you long after you've finished reading * Independent *
About Elizabeth Macneal
Elizabeth Macneal was born in Edinburgh and now lives in East London. She is a writer and potter and works from a small studio at the bottom of her garden. She read English Literature at Oxford University, before working in the City for several years. In 2017, she completed the Creative Writing MA at UEA where she was awarded the Malcolm Bradbury scholarship. The Doll Factory, Elizabeth's debut novel, won the Caledonia Novel Award 2018.
The Doll Factory by Elizabeth Macneal
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