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Ratings and Book Reviews (3 3 star ratings
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    Dark & twisty tale set in Victorian England

    In Victorian London live twins - Iris and Rose. They work in a doll factory. Rose sews the clothes for the dolls, Iris paints them. Often the dolls are created to imitate a child, living or dead. Rose was struck by smallpox which renders her disfigured. Iris’s collarbone was broken during childbirth which rendered her disfigured as well. Also in London are a group of artists known as the PRB. They paint in a tradition of bright lifelike colors. Louis Frost is taken with Iris and asks her to be his model in a new painting. Iris agrees to be Louis’s model with the promise that Louis will teach her how to paint. She leaves the Doll Factory and her disfigured sister behind, and begins this new life of art. During this same time, a taxidermist named Silas Reed develops an unhealthy obsession with Iris. The Great Exhibition is about to begin and Silas wants Iris to be his companion. Perhaps he can woo her with his entry into the Great Exhibition. But Louis got there first. I had no idea when reading this book that it was actually based on fact. The PRB, or Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood was a group of painters in the mid-1800s who pushed back against the popular painting techniques of the day. Back to prior to Raphael’s paintings. While Louis Frost and the Whittle twins are fictitious, the PRB did exist. As did the Great Exhibition and the Academy. Regardless, this is a beautifully written story of obsession and love and pain and sisterhood. MacNeal has made Iris the tougher of the two twins. This is a woman with spunk, in a time when women were expected to be prim and proper. Poor Rose with her scarred face is more of the mouse. Louis is wild and free and funny and sweet. Silas is dark and slimy. The story tells us not only of these people, but also of a time when life was not so easy for most. There is suspense and terror in this book. It is not all paintings and beauty. MacNeal gives us a dark and twisty tale to follow.
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    Very strange but good

    This Gothic thriller takes place in Victorian London in 1850. Gothic isn't my usual genre but I did like this strange story. There are plenty of weird characters starting with Iris and Rose who are twins and who work side by side in a doll factory. Rose is scarred from smallpox and Iris sustained a broken clavicle when she was born and is left with a deformity that causes her to hunch over. Street urchin Alfie sews doll clothes and collects dead animals for creepy Silas who is a taxidermist. Silas becomes infatuated with Iris so there are lots of twists and turns in this story. I would have liked to have seen a little bit more expansion on the ending. Thank you to NetGalley and the publisher for the ARC of this very different book. I meant to give this book 4 stars, not 5.
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    The Doll Factory

    The Doll Factory is Elizabeth Macneal's debut novel. The Doll Factory takes place in London in the 1850's. Ms Macneal does an excellent job of putting the reader in that time period and connecting with Iris, the main character. Some edge of your seat moments. Looking forward to the next story by Ms Macneal. I was given an early copy to review.

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