Saturday 14 January 2023


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Little by Edward Carey
If you are after an absorbing, inventive, quirky and absolutely charming novel, read Edward Carey’s Little. Set predominantly in France, meet its history and its most famous Parisians, not to forget the Court of Versailles, through the wax heads cast by Doctor Curtius and the young Marie Grosholtz. Marie, nicknamed Little due to her diminutive size and the young age at which she is apprenticed to Curtius after her mother’s untimely death, is an unlikely employee at the age of six to the reclusive anatomist, but she proves to be exactly the right person for the development of his wax work. Obsessed with producing perfect heads, he needs someone who not only understands his passion but someone who has the skills to draw, assist, mix plaster, pour moulds and thread in hair — a time-consuming and precise job. Marie Grosholz is the perfect assistant. With Carey’s excellent illustrations, wonderful and crazy characters (the frightening Widow Picot, the nervous tick of a young man, her son Edmond, the pious, yet rather foolish Princess Elisabeth, a fanciful portrayal of Loius XVI, and the brutal dog-boy-man of the elaborate name, Jacques Beauvisage), and delicious writing in the voice of our plucky heroine Little, you will be delighted. It’s France, gutter and luxury, charm and chaos, from the celebrity status of Curtius’s Cabinet of Curiosities (murderers rubbing shoulders with wealthier rogues) at The Monkey House, to the macabre fascination for the royal court. From poverty to riches to revolution and disaster, Marie Grosholtz will dance a daring zigzag of ill wind, good luck and careful advantage, not to mention some chance, to survive (if sleeping in a windowless room or a largish cupboard passes for living) and eventually prosper. She will find love, and lose it; she will be a favourite and then dismissed; she will overcome only to be pushed down in the muck, imprisoned and then released. Her talent for waxwork saves her in the end. Wonderful.

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