The wry, macabre, unforgettable tale of an ambitious orphan in Revolutionary Paris, befriended by royalty and radicals, who transforms herself into the legendary Madame Tussaud. Read more...
The wry, macabre, unforgettable tale of an ambitious orphan in Revolutionary Paris, befriended by royalty and radicals, who transforms herself into the legendary Madame Tussaud. In 1761, a tiny, odd-looking girl named Marie is born in a village in Switzerland. After the death of her parents, she is apprenticed to an eccentric wax sculptor and whisked off to the seamy streets of Paris, where they meet a domineering widow and her quiet, pale son. Together, they convert an abandoned monkey house into an exhibition hall for wax heads, and the spectacle becomes a sensation. As word of her artistic talent spreads, Marie is called to Versailles, where she tutors a princess and saves Marie Antoinette in childbirth. But outside the palace walls, Paris is roiling: The revolutionary mob is demanding heads, and . . . at the wax museum, heads are what they do. In the tradition of Gregory Maguire's Wicked and Erin Morgenstern's The Night Circus, Edward Carey's Little is a darkly endearing cavalcade of a novel--a story of art, class, determination, and how we hold on to what we love.
BookPage Top Pick in Fiction, November 2018
It might not be so wrong to review Edward Carey’s new novel, Little, with the simple declaration that it is exceptionally good. Filled with delightfully macabre illustrations, Little is about the journey of Marie Grosholtz, a rather odd-looking, diminutive child born in a tiny Swiss village in 1761. An orphan by the time she is 8, Marie finds herself in the care of the equally lonely and eccentric Dr. Curtius, a wax sculptor for the village hospital.
There, amid the real bones and organs, Marie is not scared but instead intrigued and anxious to learn the magic of plaster and wax to replicate anything at all. Soon, the master and his little apprentice escape to Paris, where they meet Widow Picot and her son, Edmond. With a head for business, the widow knows how to cash in on Dr. Curtius’ skills, and the Monkey House is born as a spectacle for the locals to marvel at wax heads of famous (and infamous) personalities. Money and fame follow, but not for Marie, whose unseemly looks overshadow her artistic talents, and she is banished as a worthless servant and denied money, power and love.
If this seems dark, it’s because it is. But Carey portrays Marie as one of the most ambitious characters you will ever meet. She is funny and kind, but above all, she is relentless in her pursuit of opportunities, which she first finds as a teacher to a princess at Versailles, then as a sculptor of wax head castings during the bloody French Revolution and later as the legendary Madame Tussaud. Marie is little only in name.
An irresistible tale, Little will please all readers, especially those who love period adventures and old-fashioned stories of triumph over human folly.
ALSO IN BOOKPAGE: Read our Q&A with Carey for Little.