The Doll Factory by Elizabeth Macneal

Reviewed by Lotte:

This Victorian, art inspired novel is based in 1980 London and centres around obsession – of art, lovers and peculiar possessions. It is both beautiful and disturbingly dark in equal measures, following the lives of very different characters that become entwined in the most unlikely way. It is also the story of an unlikely love and the plight of a woman destined to find her own way in man’s world.

This book just didn’t completely hit the spot for me. It had many elements that I enjoyed – dark and twisty hints, suspension, and what appeared to be a good plot, but I felt it didn’t quite deliver fully. I found myself hoping for so much more from the storyline because it had so much more to give. Large parts of the plot that would have had a great impact were swept over, leaving great gaps in both storyline and character reactions. Albie’s ending situation is one of those moments. The dynamics between the characters could have been embellished more too. I wanted to know and feel more of the unrequitted love between two people from differing worlds because I was drawn in my them. Even Silas, who had no functional relationships, could have been expanded upon more. Only some of his work was explained, like his mice collection, which was inherent to the plot, yet we were only told the story of a few of them. Maybe we could have a Novella (both a prequel and a sequel with these additions in!)

This book got really good from the 50% mark and I found myself falling into the world as the pace and storyline picked up. Initially I had found the prose pretty hard to follow but as I got used to the cadence of the writing I became more intrigued and compelled to continue reading. So weirdly, despite the lacking described above, I did feel suspense and enchantment. However, I wish the ending had been different! The book focuses on this style of artistry that shows the world in its messy, non-fictionalised way and yet it skims over the messy aftereffects in a dreary and predictable, fictionalised last chapter (again – sequel novella?!).

Author: Elizabeth Macneal
Publisher: Pan Macmillan
Release date: 5 March 2020

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