‘The Doll Factory’ certainly delivers and it’s a worthy debut novel. Whilst not perfect for me, it’s well onto the way of being so. The word choices are at times really beautiful and then absolutely vile; this juxtaposing creates a real style and engagement within the writing.
The subject of the novel is certainly nothing like the cover evokes – cleverly playing with our perception, which is a theme running through the story.
In the world Macneal creates we are pulled into the imposing and secret thoughts of the principal characters: from a young girl trapped and restricted by society, her family, expectations and her gender; a small boy with no childhood having to deal with truly awful experiences and a man trapped in his warped mind, struggling to retain a sense of the real world; a man encased in his creative mind and a girl physically and devastatingly destroyed by illness. The convergence of these characters collides in a fascinating and vivid narrative.
So why not perfect? I can only imagine how difficult it would have been to write an ending for this novel; this is where I felt denied. It’s left for the reader to conclude and I felt immediately shut off from a resolution; I wanted to see the events after the climax of the action. But maybe that’s just being a selfish reader.
Maybe I’ll think differently on a second read? I devoured this book in four hours, so a slower re-read will be both interesting and enjoyable.
Overall, hats off to Elizabeth Macneal. If this is your debut, then I’ll be looking out for your future work.
4.5 stars – a highly recommended read.