Summary and book reviews of Little by Edward Carey

Little

A Novel

by Edward Carey

Little by Edward Carey X
Little by Edward Carey
  • Critics' Opinion:

    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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About this Book

Book Summary

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.

Chapter One

In which I am born and in which I describe my mother and father.


In the same year that the five-year-old Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart wrote his Minuet for Harpsichord, in the precise year when the British captured Pondicherry in India from the French, in the exact year in which the melody for "Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star" was first published, in that very year, which is to say 1761, whilst in the city of Paris people at their salons told tales of beasts in castles and men with blue beards and beauties that would not wake and cats in boots and slippers made of glass and youngest children with tufts in their hair and daughters wrapped in donkey skin, and whilst in London people at their clubs discussed the coronation of King George III and Queen Charlotte: many miles away from all this activity, in a small village in Alsace, in the presence of a ruddy midwife, two village maids, and a terrified mother, was born a certain undersized baby.

Anne Marie Grosholtz was the ...

Please be aware that this discussion guide may contain spoilers!
  1. Illustrations are a big part of how Marie tells her story. How did that affect your reading experience? Did the illustrations match what you imagined? Did they change your perception of any of the characters? What do Marie's artistic choices tell us about her as a character?
  2. "Just as the fibula is to the tibia: we are connected. You and I," Curtius tells Marie. Besides their interest in anatomy and wax, what qualities do Marie and Curtius share? Do they approach relationships similarly? How about rejection?
  3. Most of Little takes place before and during the French Revolution. What does Marie's stint at Versailles suggest about the monarchy and aristocracy in France? How do you think Marie's position working for Elisabeth compared to her ...
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Reviews

BookBrowse Review

BookBrowse

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...continued

Full Review (429 words).

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(Reviewed by Natalie Vaynberg).

Media Reviews

Time
While death haunts this story, between vibrant characters and riveting historical detail, Little is a novel that teems with life.

The Times (UK)
One of the most original historical novels of the year. . . . Macabre, funny, touching and oddly life-affirming, Little is a remarkable achievement.

Publishers Weekly
Starred Review. Carey, with sumptuous turns of phrase, fashions a fantastical world that churns with vitality, especially his "Little," a female Candide at once surreal and full of heart.

Kirkus Reviews
Starred Review. A quirky, compelling story that deepens into a meditation on mortality and art.

Booklist (starred)
An immensely creative epic…Mingling a sense of playfulness with macabre history, Carey depicts the excesses of wealth and violence during the French Revolution through the eyes of a talented woman who lived through it and survived…The unique perspective, witty narrative voice, and clever illustrations make for an irresistible read.

Author Blurb Margaret Atwood, on Twitter
Don't miss this eccentric charmer! Little, by Edward Carey, narrated by Madame Tussaud of waxworks fame, [on] her strange life and times, including the almost fatal French Revolution, a prime season for heads.

Author Blurb Alexander Chee
Little is bawdy, tragic, mesmerizing, hilarious. If you've forgotten why you'd even read a novel, Edward Carey is here to set you straight.

Author Blurb Kelly Link
Little is exquisitely sensitive to all the warmth, vigor, humor, woe, and peculiarities of human nature, as if the writer had a dowsing rod capable of divining what hides within the human heart. Carey is without peer.

Author Blurb Sarah Schmidt
A deliciously disturbing treasure of a novel. Sensual, unassumingly poignant, heartbreaking, cruel, joyous: Edward Carey's Little is a triumph and one of the most intoxicating novels I've read. I never wanted to leave Marie's side.

Author Blurb Gregory Maguire, New York Times bestselling author of Wicked
An amazing achievement...A compulsively readable novel, so canny and weird and surfeited with the reality of human capacity and ingenuity that I am stymied for comparison. Dickens and David Lynch? Defoe meets Margaret Atwood? Judge for yourself.

Reader Reviews

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Beyond the Book

Robespierre's Reign of Terror

Maximilien de Robespierre, activist, lawyer, judge, and principal figure in the Reign of TerrorEdward Carey's Little spans some of the most turbulent years in French history. A particularly ghastly chapter focuses on the Reign of Terror, during which little Marie, the novel's protagonist, spends months fearing for her own life and that of her family. Over two centuries later, the French Revolution calls to mind scenes of terror and blood lust.

The Reign of Terror, which began in 1793 following the execution of King Louis XVI and lasted about 11 months, saw the imprisonment of 300,000 people, all of whom were declared to be the enemies of the Revolution. Among them, about 10,000 died in prison awaiting trial and a further 17,000 were executed, mostly with the dreaded guillotine. At the heart of it all was one man—...

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