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 by Picador as their lead debut fiction launch of 2019.
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.