The Doll Factory • Elizabeth MacNeal • 2019 • Picador • 336 pages
London. 1850. The Great Exhibition is being erected in Hyde Park and among the crowd watching the spectacle two people meet. For Iris, an aspiring artist, it is the encounter of a moment – forgotten seconds later, but for Silas, a collector entranced by the strange and beautiful, that 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. Suddenly her world begins to expand, to become a place of art and love.
But Silas has only thought of one thing since their meeting, and his obsession is darkening…
The Doll Factory est le premier roman de l’écrivaine écossaise, Elizabeth MacNeal dont l’inspiration lui vient d’un essai qu’elle a écrit durant ses études. Ce dernier portait sur la littérature anglaise des années 1850. Sur son site officiel, elle parle aussi de sa fascination pour Lizzie Suddal, muse et compagne de Dante Gabriel Rossetti, pour le Londres de cette époque, bouillonnante d’inspirations et d’ambitions que cristallise l’organisation de la toute première Exposition universelle de 1851. À cette occasion, le Crystal Palace sera construit.
Ce sont autant d’aspects historiques qui se retrouvent dans ce roman, pour mon plus grand bonheur. L’auteur évoque la construction du Crystal Palace, une des premières architectures de verre et d’acier et qui s’inspire des serres. En effet, Joseph Praxton (1803-1865), son concepteur, était avant tout un jardinier. Le roman fourmille de petites anecdotes historiques qui étoffent l’intrigue, la rendent vraisemblable, mais surtout elles donnent au lecteur l’impression de marcher au côté d’Iris dans le Londres de 1850. Une petite anecdote que j’ai adoré retrouver est celle autour des wombats, animaux que les Préraphaélites appréciaient énormément. La rumeur voulait que le wombat de Rossetti soit mort après avoir mangé une boîte de cigares… Rumeur fausse, bien entendu.
Il y a d’autres aspects historiques dans ce roman qui m’ont énormément plu et qui ne tiennent pas seulement à l’Exposition universelle. Il y a surtout la présence centrale des Préraphaélites, mouvement artistique anglais que j’adore et qui est largement abordé dans ce livre (de la place des artistes dans la société par rapport à l’Académie, le rôle important des critiques au XIX siècle qui se développent énormément, le rôle des muses, leurs méthodes de travail…). Il y a également tout un développement sur les conditions de vie et de travail des pauvres, notamment à travers le personnage tellement attachant d’Albie. Les femmes tiennent également un grand rôle dans cette intrigue. Elizabeth MacNeal montre bien la manière dont la femme était perçue à cette époque, la condition qui lui était assignée : épouse et mère ; travailleuse ou prostituée. La volonté de reconnaissance et d’ascension sociale est amplement évoquée avec Silas, un personnage qui fait froid dans le dos.
Cette impression est renforcée par, à la fois, son métier et sa psychologie. Elizabeth MacNeal a fait un excellent travail sur la description des différents personnages, mais pour Silas, je trouve qu’elle a mis un cran au-dessus. Dès sa première apparition, le lecteur sent qu’il y a quelque chose de malsain chez lui. Sa passion pour tout ce qui est morbide, les curiosités, la taxidermie ne joue pas en sa faveur. Je l’ai détesté et, tout au long du roman, j’ai espéré qu’il n’arrive jamais à ses fins, surtout après la révélation de certains secrets le concernant.
C’est à travers ce dernier que la tension psychologique du roman se crée. En le commençant, je ne m’attendais pas à ce qu’il prenne une telle direction. Mais, progressivement, d’un roman historique, The Doll Factory devient un thriller psychologique. Pour un premier roman, Elizabeth MacNeal m’a étonnée par sa maîtrise de la tension, du drame. J’ai retenu mon souffle tout au long des pages, tout en ayant beaucoup d’espoir, de la peur et de la colère. J’ai été prise dans cette intrigue rapidement, prenant à coeur le destin d’Iris.
J’ai beaucoup aimé cette jeune femme courageuse et brillante, elle ose sortir des conventions en suivant ses rêves de devenir une artiste. On peut réellement voir la fascination qu’a exercée Lizzie Suddal sur l’auteur à travers Iris. Elles partagent un certain nombre de points communs. Elles ont toutes les deux étaient découvertes alors qu’elles travaillaient dans des boutiques. Elles sont toutes les deux rousses, une couleur de cheveux qui obsédait les artistes préraphaélites. Elles sont toutes les deux muses et artistes. Cela peut donner quelques pistes de réflexion sur le destin d’Iris, même si je ne l’espère pas pour elle. Lizzie Suddal apparaît d’ailleurs dans le roman, aux côtés de Rossetti et Millais.
The Doll Factory a presque été un coup de coeur. Il y a quelques petits coups de mou parfois, entre l’introduction des personnages, puis quand l’aspect thriller psychologique commence réellement. Cependant, c’est vraiment un excellent roman, avec une écriture de qualité. Je serai curieuse de lire d’autres ouvrages de l’auteur et je recommande ce premier roman étonnant. Tout au long de ma lecture, je me suis dit que c’est le genre d’histoire que j’aimerais beaucoup voir adapter au cinéma ou en série.
Après un mois de Décembre un peu léger, Janvier semble être tout le contraire. De nombreuses publications alléchantes sont proposées. N’hésitez pas à me dire en commentaire lesquelles vous font le plus envie !
Don’t tell a soul • Kirsten Miller • Delacorte Press • 384 pages • 26 janvier
People say the house is cursed. It preys on the weakest, and young women are its favorite victims. In Louth, they’re called the Dead Girls.
All Bram wanted was to disappear—from her old life, her family’s past, and from the scandal that continues to haunt her. The only place left to go is Louth, the tiny town on the Hudson River where her uncle, James, has been renovating an old mansion. But James is haunted by his own ghosts. Months earlier, his beloved wife died in a fire that people say was set by her daughter. The tragedy left James a shell of the man Bram knew—and destroyed half the house he’d so lovingly restored. The manor is creepy, and so are the locals. The people of Louth don’t want outsiders like Bram in their town, and with each passing day she’s discovering that the rumors they spread are just as disturbing as the secrets they hide. Most frightening of all are the legends they tell about the Dead Girls. Girls whose lives were cut short in the very house Bram now calls home. The terrifying reality is that the Dead Girls may have never left the manor. And if Bram looks too hard into the town’s haunted past, she might not either.
Esnared in the wolf lair : Inside the 1944 Plot to Kill Hitler and the Ghost Children of His Revenge • Ann Bausum • National Geographic Kids • 144 pages • 12 janvier
« I’ve come on orders from Berlin to fetch the three children. »–Gestapo agent, August 24, 1944 With those chilling words Christa von Hofacker and her younger siblings found themselves ensnared in a web of family punishment designed to please one man-Adolf Hitler. The furious dictator sought merciless revenge against not only Christa’s father and the other Germans who had just tried to overthrow his government. He wanted to torment their relatives, too, regardless of age or stature. All of them. Including every last child.
The Secret Life of Dorothy Soames • Justine Cowan • Harper • 320 pages • 12 janvier
Justine had always been told that her mother came from royal blood. The proof could be found in her mother’s elegance, her uppercrust London accent—and in a cryptic letter hinting at her claim to a country estate. But beneath the polished veneer lay a fearsome, unpredictable temper that drove Justine from home the moment she was old enough to escape. Years later, when her mother sent her an envelope filled with secrets from the past, Justine buried it in the back of an old filing cabinet.
Overcome with grief after her mother’s death, Justine found herself drawn back to that envelope. Its contents revealed a mystery that stretched back to the early years of World War II and beyond, into the dark corridors of the Hospital for the Maintenance and Education of Exposed and Deserted Young Children. Established in the eighteenth century to raise “bastard” children to clean chamber pots for England’s ruling class, the institution was tied to some of history’s most influential figures and events. From its role in the development of solitary confinement and human medical experimentation to the creation of the British Museum and the Royal Academy of Arts, its impact on Western culture continues to reverberate. It was also the environment that shaped a young girl known as Dorothy Soames, who bravely withstood years of physical and emotional abuse at the hands of a sadistic headmistress—a resilient child who dreamed of escape as German bombers rained death from the skies.
The Children’s Train • Viola Ardone • HarperVia • 320 pages • 12 janvier
Though Mussolini and the fascists have been defeated, the war has devastated Italy, especially the south. Seven-year-old Amerigo lives with his mother Antonietta in Naples, surviving on odd jobs and his wits like the rest of the poor in his neighborhood. But one day, Amerigo learns that a train will take him away from the rubble-strewn streets of the city to spend the winter with a family in the north, where he will be safe and have warm clothes and food to eat.
Together with thousands of other southern children, Amerigo will cross the entire peninsula to a new life. Through his curious, innocent eyes, we see a nation rising from the ashes of war, reborn. As he comes to enjoy his new surroundings and the possibilities for a better future, Amerigo will make the heartbreaking choice to leave his mother and become a member of his adoptive family.
In the Garden of Spite • Camilla Bruce • Berkley • 480 pages • 19 janvier
They whisper about her in Chicago. Men come to her with their hopes, their dreams–their fortunes. But no one sees them leave. No one sees them at all after they come to call on the Widow of La Porte. The good people of Indiana may have their suspicions, but if those fools knew what she’d given up, what was taken from her, how she’d suffered, surely they’d understand. Belle Gunness learned a long time ago that a woman has to make her own way in this world. That’s all it is. A bloody means to an end. A glorious enterprise meant to raise her from the bleak, colorless drudgery of her childhood to the life she deserves. After all, vermin always survive.
The House on Vesper Sands • Paraic O’Donnell • Tin House Books • 408 pages • 12 janvier
On the case is Inspector Cutter, a detective as sharp and committed to his work as he is wryly hilarious. Gideon Bliss, a Cambridge dropout in love with one of the missing girls, stumbles into a role as Cutter’s sidekick. And clever young journalist Octavia Hillingdon sees the case as a chance to tell a story that matters—despite her employer’s preference that she stick to a women’s society column. As Inspector Cutter peels back the mystery layer by layer, he leads them all, at last, to the secrets that lie hidden at the house on Vesper Sands.
The Historians • Cecilia Eckbäck • Harper Perennial • 464 pages • 12 janvier
It is 1943 and Sweden’s neutrality in the war is under pressure. Laura Dahlgren, the bright, young right-hand of the chief negotiator to Germany, is privy to these tensions, even as she tries to keep her head down in the mounting fray. However, when Laura’s best friend from university, Britta, is discovered murdered in cold blood, Laura is determined to find the killer.
Prior to her death, Britta sent a report on the racial profiling in Scandinavia to the secretary to the Minister of Foreign Affairs, Jens Regnell. In the middle of negotiating a delicate alliance with Hitler and the Nazis, Jens doesn’t understand why he’s received the report. When the pursuit of Britta’s murderer leads Laura to his door, the two join forces to get at the truth.
But as Jens and Laura attempt to untangle the mysterious circumstance surrounding Britta’s death, they only become more mired in a web of lies and deceit. This trail will lead to a conspiracy that could topple their nation’s identity—a conspiracy some in Sweden will try to keep hidden at any cost.
Faye, Faraway • Helen Fischer • Gallery Books • 304 pages • 26 janvier
Faye is a thirty-seven-year-old happily married mother of two young daughters. Every night, before she puts them to bed, she whispers to them: “You are good, you are kind, you are clever, you are funny.” She’s determined that they never doubt for a minute that their mother loves them unconditionally. After all, her own mother Jeanie had died when she was only seven years old and Faye has never gotten over that intense pain of losing her.
But one day, her life is turned upside down when she finds herself in 1977, the year before her mother died. Suddenly, she has the chance to reconnect with her long-lost mother, and even meets her own younger self, a little girl she can barely remember. Jeanie doesn’t recognize Faye as her daughter, of course, even though there is something eerily familiar about her…
As the two women become close friends, they share many secrets—but Faye is terrified of revealing the truth about her identity. Will it prevent her from returning to her own time and her beloved husband and daughters? What if she’s doomed to remain in the past forever? Faye knows that eventually she will have to choose between those she loves in the past and those she loves in the here and now, and that knowledge presents her with an impossible choice.
The Heiress: The Revelations of Anne de Bourgh • Molly Greeley • William Morrow • 368 pages • 5 janvier
As a fussy baby, Anne de Bourgh’s doctor prescribed laudanum to quiet her, and now the young woman must take the opium-heavy tincture every day. Growing up sheltered and confined, removed from sunshine and fresh air, the pale and overly slender Anne grew up with few companions except her cousins, including Fitzwilliam Darcy. Throughout their childhoods, it was understood that Darcy and Anne would marry and combine their vast estates of Pemberley and Rosings. But Darcy does not love Anne or want her.
After her father dies unexpectedly, leaving her his vast fortune, Anne has a moment of clarity: what if her life of fragility and illness isn’t truly real? What if she could free herself from the medicine that clouds her sharp mind and leaves her body weak and lethargic? Might there be a better life without the medicine she has been told she cannot live without?
In a frenzy of desperation, Anne discards her laudanum and flees to the London home of her cousin, Colonel John Fitzwilliam, who helps her through her painful recovery. Yet once she returns to health, new challenges await. Shy and utterly inexperienced, the wealthy heiress must forge a new identity for herself, learning to navigate a “season” in society and the complexities of love and passion. The once wan, passive Anne gives way to a braver woman with a keen edge—leading to a powerful reckoning with the domineering mother determined to control Anne’s fortune . . . and her life.
Last Garden in England • Julia Kelly • Gallery Books • 368 pages • 12 janvier
Present day: Emma Lovett, who has dedicated her career to breathing new life into long-neglected gardens, has just been given the opportunity of a lifetime: to restore the gardens of the famed Highbury House estate, designed in 1907 by her hero Venetia Smith. But as Emma dives deeper into the gardens’ past, she begins to uncover secrets that have long lain hidden.
1907: A talented artist with a growing reputation for her ambitious work, Venetia Smith has carved out a niche for herself as a garden designer to industrialists, solicitors, and bankers looking to show off their wealth with sumptuous country houses. When she is hired to design the gardens of Highbury House, she is determined to make them a triumph, but the gardens—and the people she meets—promise to change her life forever.
1944: When land girl Beth Pedley arrives at a farm on the outskirts of the village of Highbury, all she wants is to find a place she can call home. Cook Stella Adderton, on the other hand, is desperate to leave Highbury House to pursue her own dreams. And widow Diana Symonds, the mistress of the grand house, is anxiously trying to cling to her pre-war life now that her home has been requisitioned and transformed into a convalescent hospital for wounded soldiers. But when war threatens Highbury House’s treasured gardens, these three very different women are drawn together by a secret that will last for decades.
The Divines • Ellie Eaton • William Morrow • 320 pages • 19 janvier
The girls of St John the Divine, an elite English boarding school, were notorious for flipping their hair, harassing teachers, chasing boys, and chain-smoking cigarettes. They were fiercely loyal, sharp-tongued, and cuttingly humorous in the way that only teenage girls can be. For Josephine, now in her thirties, the years at St John were a lifetime ago. She hasn’t spoken to another Divine in fifteen years, not since the day the school shuttered its doors in disgrace.
Yet now Josephine inexplicably finds herself returning to her old stomping grounds. The visit provokes blurry recollections of those doomed final weeks that rocked the community. Ruminating on the past, Josephine becomes obsessed with her teenage identity and the forgotten girls of her one-time orbit. With each memory that resurfaces, she circles closer to the violent secret at the heart of the school’s scandal. But the more Josephine recalls, the further her life unravels, derailing not just her marriage and career, but her entire sense of self.
Our darkest night • Jennifer Robson • William Morrow • 384 pages • 5 janvier
It is the autumn of 1943, and life is becoming increasingly perilous for Italian Jews like the Mazin family. With Nazi Germany now occupying most of her beloved homeland, and the threat of imprisonment and deportation growing ever more certain, Antonina Mazin has but one hope to survive—to leave Venice and her beloved parents and hide in the countryside with a man she has only just met.
Nico Gerardi was studying for the priesthood until circumstances forced him to leave the seminary to run his family’s farm. A moral and just man, he could not stand by when the fascists and Nazis began taking innocent lives. Rather than risk a perilous escape across the mountains, Nina will pose as his new bride. And to keep her safe and protect secrets of his own, Nico and Nina must convince prying eyes they are happily married and in love.
But farm life is not easy for a cultured city girl who dreams of becoming a doctor like her father, and Nico’s provincial neighbors are wary of this soft and educated woman they do not know. Even worse, their distrust is shared by a local Nazi official with a vendetta against Nico. The more he learns of Nina, the more his suspicions grow—and with them his determination to exact revenge.
As Nina and Nico come to know each other, their feelings deepen, transforming their relationship into much more than a charade. Yet both fear that every passing day brings them closer to being torn apart . . .
Lore • Alexandra Bracken • Disney Hyperion • 480 pages • 5 janvier
Every seven years, the Agon begins. As punishment for a past rebellion, nine Greek gods are forced to walk the earth as mortals, hunted by the descendants of ancient bloodlines, all eager to kill a god and seize their divine power and immortality. Long ago, Lore Perseous fled that brutal world in the wake of her family’s sadistic murder by a rival line, turning her back on the hunt’s promises of eternal glory. For years she’s pushed away any thought of revenge against the man–now a god–responsible for their deaths.
Yet as the next hunt dawns over New York City, two participants seek out her help: Castor, a childhood friend of Lore believed long dead, and a gravely wounded Athena, among the last of the original gods.
The goddess offers an alliance against their mutual enemy and, at last, a way for Lore to leave the Agon behind forever. But Lore’s decision to bind her fate to Athena’s and rejoin the hunt will come at a deadly cost–and still may not be enough to stop the rise of a new god with the power to bring humanity to its knees.