The Doll Factory
Which cover do you like more? The one that I took from the library, or the one in Amazon? The copy I have does have few more hints, while the Amazon copy has a butterfly in a broken glass box, with a painting at the back. Both have a role in the book.
The story starts in the 1850s London, where the Great Exhibition is going to be held in Hyde Park. The author starts with a man, Silas the taxidermist/ bone collector, and a child name Albie. Their interaction is odd, but it is just the beginning.
Albie then heads to Iris, the “apprentice” of Mrs Salter’s doll making shop. Iris appears to be kind to Albie, that quickly establishes her as the protagonist in the story. Sure enough, the pieces fall in to place soon after.
There are a few small story lines in addition to the main one., which is why it is a gripping read from start to finish. First we have Iris’ relationship with her twin sister Rose (and their parents, but that’s what give Iris a proper background).
Silas’ shady past comes in moments as he fantasizes himself with Iris, or when he goes into a tantrum. He appears in the book as a person who is starving for friendship or companionship.
Albie the child is the medium in the book, he is the one who moves around and knows everyone worth knowing in London. Iris and Silas know him, and he does play a role to play. His part of the story is not big, but it is nice to know more about the kid.
Louis Frost is the person who instigates the change in Iris. He is part of a pre- Raphaelite movement, who wants to see change in the stiff London society. Iris agrees to be his model on the condition that he teaches her how to paint as well.
When he recognizes Iris’ raw talent as an artist, he teaches her in earnest, showing her how to develop the artist’s critical eye. Iris of course is a fast learner. And no surprise when she shows character growth in leaps and bounds.
Obessession can be a great fuel to become greater at something, or the cause of danger. The author expertly manages to use the one simple word to create a story that is captivating. Yup, she manages to make me obessed with finishing the book.
It is the ending that makes me fall in love with this debut novel. I cannot believe that this is her first book! The ending is a simple review of a painting, a two page review. Yet, if you have read the story from start to finish, you will know what the artist is saying.
While we all know that a picture is worth a thousand words, a few can use words to paint such a dramatic scene where the readers can readily imagine the painting. Better still to understand the hints, and how relieved I was when I read the review.
Definitely worth a read, the pace of the story can be slow at certain points, but when it speeds up it will take your breath away. Even though you know where the story goes, you will read on anyway, because you want it to be different. The ending is well done, and the whole thing just messes with your head as you wish that things were different.
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