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The Doll Factory by Elizabeth Macneal

This has been picked by The Sunday Times as best paperback for 2020 and follows in the same genre as The Miniaturist. Set in London of 1850, on a crowded street, Iris Whittle, a successful dollmaker with her sister Rose meets the artist Louis Frost. Louis is an ambitious painter who yearns to have his work displayed in the Royal Academy, and he is desperate for Iris to be his model. She agrees but only on the condition that he teaches her to paint.

Dreaming of freedom and against her family’s wishes, Iris throws herself into a new life of art and love, unaware that she has caught the eye of a second man. Silas Reed is the real villain of the story but a complex man. He is a curiosity collector, taxidermist, enchanted by the strange and beautiful. After seeing Iris at the site of the Great Exhibition he finds he cannot forget her.

Iris’ world expands as her talent grows but then so does Silas’s obsession and they will meet again. This is an excellent historical fiction novel. It is from the very popular gothic, crime genre. Full of colour, intriguing characters and great atmosphere.

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