BookBrowse Reviews Little by Edward Carey

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Little

A Novel

by Edward Carey

Little by Edward Carey X
Little by Edward Carey
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    Readers' Opinion:

     Not Yet Rated
  • First Published:
    Oct 2018, 448 pages
    Paperback:
    Oct 2019, 448 pages

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Book Reviewed by:
Natalie Vaynberg
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In this dark but charming novel, Edward Carey relates the fascinating biography of wax figure artist Madame Tussaud.

Fantastical, grotesque and beautiful, Edward Carey's Little explores the life and times of Marie Grosholtz, better known as Madame Tussaud. She begins her life as a poor orphaned child and ends it as a keeper of stories, an artist of the macabre, and a shrewd businesswoman operating the hall of replicas for which she is most known. In between, she learns the intricacies of the human body through wax sculpting; lives in a cupboard at Versailles; makes a family out of a reclusive doctor, a ferocious widow and her timid son; and survives the horrors of the French Revolution.

Carey creates a magical world, shrouded by normalcy. This magic can only be discovered if you look closely. Take, for example, the scapula bone, which holds up the human shoulder, a shoulder that can offer great comfort in the face of tragedy. Or a crooked chin, which might be called ugly, but can also keep a deceased parent's memory alive through a family resemblance. Little is filled with such beautiful minutiae, such perfect glimpses into a world much more colorful than our own. All is made tangible and more comprehensible through the inclusion of Carey's gorgeous and haunting illustrations. Don't be surprised if they seem strange and disturbing at first, you have not yet learned to look closely enough. By the end of the novel, you will be unable to look away.

Marie, known mostly by her nickname "Little," is a wonderful narrator and companion to the reader. She shares everything in her life simply and without pretense. She offers no judgment, but instead seeks to understand everyone that wanders into her path—from feral street boys to spoiled princesses. She is an exceedingly endearing protagonist, and an honest guide through her own sliver of history. Carey writes his little heroine with tenderness and authenticity, as if she just stepped off the streets of Paris into your living room.

Although seemingly too outlandish to be true, the events of Madame Tussaud's life are portrayed as they occurred, albeit with a bit of flair added here and there. Carey has done his research—he knows the intricacies of Versailles life during the reign of Louis XVI, and renders the escalation of violence during the French Revolution with accuracy and urgency.

This is a rare gem of a book, lacking absolutely nothing. Beautifully written, fully realized and truly engrossing, Little can be read again and again. It would do well as a movie or a TV miniseries, but it is perfectly lovely in its current form. Enjoy this sumptuous feast for the eyes, it is truly a treat.

Reviewed by Natalie Vaynberg

This review was originally published in The BookBrowse Review in October 2018, and has been updated for the January 2020 edition. Click here to go to this issue.

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