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Publisher's Summary

The Sunday Times best seller - as read on BBC Radio 4.

A BBC Radio 2 Book Club Choice 2019.

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 forever.

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 thought of only one thing since their meeting, and his obsession is darkening.... 

This audiobook includes an exclusive interview with Elizabeth Macneal. 

©2019 Elizabeth Macneal (P)2019 Macmillan Publishers International Ltd

Critic Reviews

"A sharp, scary, gorgeously evocative tale of love, art and obsession." (Paula Hawkins, author of The Girl on the Train)

What listeners say about The Doll Factory

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  • Liz
  • 05-07-19

Enjoyable & Immersive

An enjoyable fairytale like story with the pre-raphelites as the background. it felt as though feminism had been retro fitted into the story without too much trouble. And it was a pleasant immersion in time and place. I'll definitely keep an eye out for more from this author

12 people found this helpful

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  • Dog Walker Sussex
  • 05-06-19

Huge disappointment

After reading so many good reviews, I couldn't wait to start listening. Sorry but have given up after 6 chapters!. For me it seemed very bitty and none of the characters were likeable . The narration was good but the story did nothing for me .

8 people found this helpful

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  • Amazon Customer
  • 06-19-19

Her first novel.

For a first novel it is excellent. For me I found her writing exquisitely descriptive, not just the characters in the story but the way in which she brings London alive at a not so pleasant period in it's history especially for the poor. Although it paints a picture of a time and place I would love to view first hand, it is not one where I would want to have lived. To say I enjoyed this book does not go far enough but I seriously recommend you to listen to this one if you, like myself are captivated by tales of the 1800s.
At the end She mentioned that she has not finished with this period and gives a brief insite to her 2nd book and I can't wait to hear it. 5stars for The Doll Factory. May there be many more from Miss Macneal.

7 people found this helpful

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  • Arianna Halshaw
  • 05-05-19

Excellent listen!

So richly told, this is an excellent story that takes you right back to Victorian London. Highly recommended.

7 people found this helpful

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  • Spiky Potplant
  • 05-15-19

Enjoyable but not quite what I had expected

I enjoyed listening to this story. It has some interesting characters. The Pre-Raphaelite links were fairly well done and I think they anchored the book and gave it a bit more substance and feeling of reality. I had been expecting a Victorian Gothic horror based on some of the reviews but I think it's more historical fiction than horror and not particularly scary. It feels like a very modern story line adapted for Victorian London. No doubt it will be made into a period TV drama very soon!

4 people found this helpful

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  • keziah
  • 07-22-19

Loved it!

I really enjoyed this novel. Much more than I had anticipated. The author really brings the sights and smells of Victorian London to life. The novel has a great atmospheric quality as well as a good understanding of the taxidermy and painting processes. The little details about the PRB, the wombat for example really made me smile. This book made me want to pick up my paint brush again and, like Iris, escape my own prison.
I look forward to the next novel by Elizabeth Macneal.

3 people found this helpful

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  • Trishyesthatone!
  • 06-22-19

FASCINATING AND COMPELLING

This most wonderfully written book will have just about anyone interested in art and the history of the PRB just forming itself, drawn in right from the start. It’s also full of twists and darkness. I couldn’t wait to finish it but now I am almost sad that it as I looked forward tremendously to picking it up whenever I could. I will certainly read it again soon.

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  • Caitlin Browne
  • 05-22-19

Incredibly Vivid

I really enjoyed this book, the way both the author and the narrator describe iris’s process of painting was particularly inspiring, I felt like I too was learning from a master painter

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  • bunny_girl
  • 05-17-19

Good story but ending could have been better

I really enjoyed this book until the end. It felt a bit rushed and incomplete.

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  • A Gothic Writer's reading nook
  • 01-18-21

Gorgeously Gothic!

4.5 STARS
I really enjoyed it, but I wanted to love it more than perhaps I did. But Tuppence Middleton really pulled me into the story.
Art, desire, obsession and decay...everything I seek in a historic gothic tale.

The story, the dark eerie edge that swept along with all the beauty was captivating. The plot had me page-turning without exception.

It was the very end that jolted a little, maybe I just wasn't ready for it to finish. I'm the first to admit that a few details left to the imagination are sometimes exactly what the reader needs, but I wanted to know a little more of what happened afterwards; the resolve.

The writing; the prose was captivating to a point, but there were occasions where it felt a little too over-edited, too streamlined, and the author's voice sounded a little stifled; those parts left me wanting more...more depth of voice.
But overall a gloriously textured tapestry mapping the dark seedy alleyways of Victorian London.

1 person found this helpful

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  • Judith O'Doherty
  • 07-02-19

Mystery, intrigue, suspense all here

Loved this book kept you in suspense the whole time. heroine and history is awesome

1 person found this helpful

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  • Jimmy Burns
  • 07-04-22

Just not for me

The storyline had promise, just wasn’t the book for me. I didn’t finish it unfortunately

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  • Violet Clapham
  • 07-03-22

Amazing, had me on the edge of my seat

Wow, fantastic story and such a great narrator, easy to tell all the characters apart and SO good at building the suspense. Read another review which criticised the ending but I thought it was perfect. Highly recommend, five stars!!

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  • Anonymous User
  • 05-06-22

So engrossing and wonderful!

I absolutely loved this, Elizabeth has a brilliant way of bringing characters to vivid life. I am an artist and the PRB are my heroes, reading this was pure joy. I loved Iris so much! I listened to the ending twice just to cheer her on. Fantastic!

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  • Lynnette
  • 03-08-22

Absolutely fulfils every tick box

I love stories from the 1800s, descriptions of London are bright and detailed and disgusting. Everything about this book satisfied me, from the clear narration, cleverly built plot, macabre details and personalities tempered with kindness and caring. The arts are well depicted and easily understood of the time.
A really great read, well done Liz.