The Doll Factory

Elizabeth MacNeal. Atria, $27 (368p) ISBN 978-1-982106-76-8
MacNeal’s lively debut finds a fresh way to dramatize the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood of revolutionary, mid-19th-century British painters. In addition to William Holman Hunt, John Everett Millais, and Dante Gabriel Rossetti, MacNeal creates a fictitious PRB member, Louis Frost, who meets Iris Whittle, the heroine, a painter of miniature faces at Mrs. Salter’s Doll Emporium. Dismissed for being a woman, Iris longs to be seen as a real painter, and when she meets Frost, he proposes a deal: if she poses for him, he will give her art lessons. At the same time, Iris also comes to the attention of Silas Reed, a taxidermist who sells stuffed animals to artists as props for their paintings. Unbeknownst to Iris, he stalks her with the intention of possessing her like an object . Louis turns out to be a generous mentor and Iris ends up falling for him. Only Albie, a light-fingered street urchin befriended by Iris, is aware of how much danger she is in from the obsessed Silas. Told against the backdrop of the Great Exposition at the Crystal Palace and its industrial wonders, MacNeal’s consistently enjoyable novel reads like an art history lecture co-delivered by Wilkie Collins and Charles Dickens and read from a revisionist feminist script. This debut is a blast; it enticingly vacillates between a realistic depiction of the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood’s London and lurid Victorian drama. (Aug.)
Reviewed on : 09/12/2019
Release date: 08/13/2019
Genre: Fiction
Downloadable Audio - 978-1-5082-9609-6
Ebook - 978-1-9821-0678-2
Paperback - 978-1-9821-0677-5
Compact Disc - 978-1-5082-9611-9
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