Elizabeth Macneal

A gripping debut novel set in the Pre-Raphaelite circle of Victorian London. The winner of the 2018 Caledonia First Novel Award, The Doll Factory will be published in the UK by Picador as their lead debut fiction launch of 2019, with Simon and Schuster / Emily Bestler Books publishing simultaneously in the US.

London, 1850. As the Great Exhibition is being erected in Hyde Park, two people meet among the crowd watching the spectacle. For Iris, an aspiring artist, it is the encounter of a moment – forgotten seconds later, but for Silas, a curiosity collector enchanted by the strange and beautiful, the meeting marks a new beginning. When Iris is asked to model for Pre-Raphaelite artist Louis Frost, she agrees on the condition that he will also teach her to paint, and suddenly her world begins to expand, to become a place of art and love.

But Silas has only thought of one thing since that meeting, and his obsession is darkening.

The Doll Factory is a tale of curiosity, love and possession.  It brings to life the squalor, ambition and sweeping vision of 1851 London, a radical year of art and ambition that would change Britain and the lives within it forever.  Central to the book is the theme of female empowerment. As a young woman, Iris’s dreams are constrained by society, but she is compelled forward by a dogged resilience and a tenacious desire to become the person she knows she is.



This brilliant literary thriller gripped me from the opening page and didn’t relinquish its hold until I’d read the final sentence. The Doll Factory conjures 1850s London in all its grime and glory, possibility and restriction in absorbing, immersive detail. Elizabeth Macneal has created that rare thing: a beautifully researched historical novel with a plot to stop your heart. If this is her first book, I can barely wait to see what she writes next.

Hannah Kent, author of Burial Rites and The Good People
Hannah Kent , author of Burial Rites and The Good People

Stunningly confident first novel with real sense of period and place, plus storytelling chops.

Ian Rankin, author of the Rebus books
Ian Rankin , author of the Rebus books

I loved The Doll Factory from the very first page and couldn’t do anything else until I’d read right to the end. An exquisite novel of obsession, delusion, resilience and love, Elizabeth Macneal really is a breathtaking new talent.

AJ Pearce, author of Dear Mrs Bird
AJ Pearce , author of Dear Mrs Bird

With strong echoes of John Fowles’ The Collector, The Doll Factory is at once a vivid depiction of a morally dubious world, and a page-turning psychological thriller, with a truly compelling villain in the character of Silas.

Essie Fox, author Elijah's Mermaid
Essie Fox , author Elijah's Mermaid

A sharp, scary, gorgeously evocative tale of love, art and obsession.

Paula Hawkins, author of The Girl on the Train
Paula Hawkins , author of The Girl on the Train

A stunning novel that twines together power, art, and obsession. At every turn expectations are confounded - it’s a historical novel and yet feels incredibly relevant and timely. I loved its warmth, it’s wry humour, and the way each small thread leads into an unbearably tense and chilling denouement that had me totally gripped.

Sophie Mackintosh, author of The Water Cure
Sophie Mackintosh , author of The Water Cure

The Doll Factory is engrossing and atmospheric. Fascinating real historical background (the Pre-Raphaelites) and super invented characters. I can practically see the TV version!

Adele Geras, author of The Ballet Class
Adele Geras , author of The Ballet Class

The Doll Factory is a gripping, artfully written historical novel with a highly contemporary sensibility. The setting - 19th century London full of pomp, grime and menace - plays just one part in an immersive and intellectually satisfying narrative that interrogates gender politics, classism, relationships, artistic obsession and erotomania with a painterly eye and gleefully dark heart. Part love story, part gothic novel and leading up to a truly breathless conclusion - this book is destined to be one of the biggest titles of 2019, deservedly so.

Sharlene Teo, author of Ponti
Sharlene Teo , author of Ponti

An astonishingly good debut. The Doll Factory reminded me of The Crimson Petal and the White, Fingersmith and Vanity Fair but had a richness of tone that was uniquely its own. Macneal writes with utter mastery, creating a lushly intricate world peopled by living, breathing characters you can’t help but fall in love with and a plot that rattles like a speeding carriage to its thrilling conclusion. I couldn’t put it down. You won’t be able to either.

Elizabeth Day, author of The Party
Elizabeth Day , author of The Party

One of the most heart-stopping, gripping books I have ever read.

Sophie Jonathan, Senior commissioning editor at Picador
Sophie Jonathan , Senior commissioning editor at Picador


Historical fiction

UK Publication

Picador / Macmillan, 2019

US Publication

Simon & Schuster / Emily Bestler Books

Rights Sales

UK & Commonwealth: Picador / Macmillan
US: Simon & Schuster / Emily Bestler Books
Canadian: Simon & Schuster Canada
TV: Buccaneer Media
Bulgarian: Colibri
Chinese (Complex): Marco Polo
Croat: Stilus
Czech: Albatros Media
Danish: Lindhardt og Ringhoff
Dutch: The House Of Books
Estonian: Pegasus
French: Presses de la Cite
German: Eichborn / Luebbe
Greek: Psichogios
Hungarian: Geopen
Italian: Einaudi
Latvian: Zvaigzne
Lithuanian: Alma Littera
Polish: GW Foksal
Portuguese (EU): Topseller
Romanian: ART Publishing House
Russian: Exmo
Serbian: Laguna
Slovak: Albatros
Slovenian: Ucila
Spanish: Ediciones B
Swedish: Bokforlaget Forum
Taiwan: Marco Polo Press / Cite Publishing
Turkish: Pena Yayinlari
Ukrainian: FLC / Hemiro