In “The Doll Factory,” by Paula Hawkins (also known as @pdasite on Twitter), a writer wants to tell her story using a doll factory. In this darkly funny, beautifully suggestive, and gorgeously evocative tale, a young woman strives to be both an artist and a wife/mother/feminist, in order to satisfy her own unique and powerful needs. This is the first book that I have read by Paula Hawkins and I loved it!
Elizabeth bears a resemblance to an image from a work of art, possibly a woodworking doll factory or perhaps an image of an abandoned doll factory. She lives in upstate New York, an area populated primarily with women. One night, she receives a call from her sister who lives in Manhattan. They seem to be having difficulty locating their sister’s doll factory. Elizabeth has a difficult time trying to comprehend how a woman could live in such a cosmopolitan area and yet be obsessed with collecting miniature dolls.
What interests me so much about this particular story is that it is so relevant to today’s world. The Doll Factory is a nod to the dolls that our mothers and grandmothers might have made, and we can all imagine what their lifestyle would have been like during the industrial revolution. It is also a reflection of how the sexual politics of the time would have played out. The Doll Factory tells us women were objectified in a sexualized manner and that their place was in the public eye. This all adds to an interesting historical novel.
As I mentioned earlier, the setting of the story is a doll factory. It is located in upstate New York. The novel chronicles the Doll Factory’s rise to popularity. At the turn of the twentieth century, there are many textile factories in the United States that employ tens of thousands of women. A great exhibition, at Hyde Park, brings together a collection of these textile manufacturers and their products for interested buyers to view.
In 1850, after years of struggling, the owners of the doll factory establish a small store in London. The owner’s daughter is a young woman who works as a cashier. She is very interested in a new doll factory that her father, the factory owner, is trying to construct. Her loyalty is loyalty to her employer and when the opportunity arises, she jumps at the chance to work in the doll factory. Her boss, Miss Watson, lectures her that her job is to make customers happy and that she will not make any fashion statement.
Eventually, the company makes a fashion statement and ships off a number of dolls to the United States. Miss Macneal realizes that the dolls are beautiful but that they will not be popular if they are not manufactured in England. She therefore travels to England and starts a secret negotiation with the owner of the doll factory. She manages to persuade him to build a huge factory in London where she can work from home designing dolls to fit her clothing line. Her success in this regard is responsible for the beginning of the end of the reign of the Queen Elizabeth.