Publication Date: August 13, 2019
Publisher: Atria/Emily Bestler Books
Genre: Gothic, horror, psychological thriller
Trigger Warning: animal abuse, animal torture, animal death (One of the main characters is a taxidermist)
The Doll Factory is set in 1850’s London and follows the perspectives of Silas Reed (a taxidermist who runs his own shop), Iris (who works at a doll shop painting dolls and desperately wants to work on her art), and Albie (a young boy who works odd jobs to help take care of him and his sister). Silas is a man with a dark past who has never fit in and when he sees Iris for the first time he is immediately obsessed with her.
When I first started this book I didn’t think I was going to like it because it started off so slow. Over time though I found myself getting so attached to the characters that I was hooked. I couldn’t wait to find out what was going to happen and where this story was going. Iris went through a lot of character growth in this story and I really liked following her story along. Her interactions with Louis, a painter, was one of my favorite parts of the story. The character of Albie was so sweet and I loved his relationship with his sister and how much he cared about her. Silas was so interesting to read from because the way he could take a situation and twist it in his head was fascinating. He is a character very out of touch with reality and the way he could justify things to himself was almost impressive. Macneal did an amazing job writing such well fleshed out characters and I am blown away that she is a debut author. I will definitely be reading more from her in the future.
However, there was an event that happened in this book that I really didn’t appreciate at all. In fact, it made me so mad that I wanted to close my kindle and not finish this book. It is a huge spoiler so I am going to be vague but I got so upset because I didn’t think it was necessary to the story or plot at all. It felt almost exploitative in the way it messed with my feelings for no reason other than to be shocking. Upon finishing the book I can see why Macneal made the choice that she did but off the top of my head I can come up with three or four different ways she could have achieved the same result. I looked up reviews for this book when I finished and I can’t find anyone who mentioned what I am talking about so I’m definitely in the minority with my reaction.
This book is listed as psychological thriller and there are definitely aspects of that in this book but to me it read much more like a gothic horror. The Doll Factory also has veins of You by Caroline Kepnes so if you liked that book and have been wanting to try something darker I think this might be what you are looking for.