Book Review: The Doll Factory by Elizabeth Macneal

I’m not sure how to describe this book.

Book CWs: For a list of content/trigger warnings for this book, along with tropes and representation, check out its page on BookTriggerWarnings.com!

Premise (from Goodreads)

The Doll Factory, the debut novel by Elizabeth Macneal, is an intoxicating story of art, obsession and possession.

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 (No Spoilers)

Hello everyone! This is my first non-requested/non-blog tour review in a while (long story short, I moved and spent the past two months panicking instead of writing) so I’m happy to be back to my old blogging ways, even if it’s temporary.

The Doll Factory was the first chosen book for a new book club I’m in, and I couldn’t be more happy about that fact because I honestly think I would have DNFed it otherwise. I wouldn’t say that this book is bad or anything like that, I just couldn’t get into it at any real point. It was only in the last 50 pages that I started to feel the pull to not put it down.

My main issue with The Doll Factory was that I basically never understood what story I was reading. I have a theory that that was kind of the whole point of the book, but for me, it just made it harder for me to enjoy. Every time I told my partner what was happening in the book, he would respond, “Um, what kind of book is this??”

We chose this book as our pick for Historical Fiction, which is how it started off, but it seemed to constantly be changing between historical fiction, thriller, and romance. There are several “narrators” (each chapter is written in 3rd person but the POV changes) and I ultimately feel like the book suffered from having too many interconnected strands. There were times when my fellow members and I would wonder why certain characters and plot points were introduced. In many cases, these people and arcs disappeared almost completely from the story.

In the end, I feel like this book had a lot of potential as a thriller, or even a romance. The author has a real talent for writing suspense, drama, and humor. I just ultimately felt like I was reading three different novels taking place in the same town at the same time. I found it more fun to discuss the book than to actually read it.

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