Cover image for Little
Title:
Little
ISBN:
9780525534327
Personal Author:
Publication Information:
New York, New York : Riverhead Books, 2018.

©2018
Physical Description:
436 pages : illustrations ; 24 cm
General Note:
Subtitle from dust jacket.
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"-- Provided by publisher.

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. -- adapted from jacket.
Holds:

Available:*

Library
Material Type
Call Number
Status
Searching...
Book Fiction Carey
Searching...
Searching...
Book Fiction Carey
Searching...
Searching...
Book Fiction Carey
Searching...

On Order

Summary

Summary

"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." --Gregory Maguire, New York Times bestselling author of Wicked

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.


Author Notes

Only thirty years old, Edward Carey has already achieved success as a playwright & as an illustrator.

(Bowker Author Biography)


Reviews 4

Publisher's Weekly Review

Plunging into the macabre chaos of 18th-century Europe in this exquisite novel, Carey (Alva & Irva) conjures the life of the girl who would become Madame Tussaud. Orphaned at seven, "Little" Anne Marie Grosholz finds herself in servitude to Doctor Curtius, an emaciated recluse who fashions body parts from wax for medical research. He teaches the clever Marie his trade-which she quickly learns, as she'd already developed an early, acute awareness of physiognomy owing to her gargantuan nose and protruding chin. Curtius soon becomes renowned for his wax portrait heads, but when he and Marie must flee to Paris to avoid their creditors, finding lodgings with a tailor's widow and her son Edmond, Marie is banished to the kitchen by Edmond's jealous mother. Marie has no choice but to find allies outside the widow's household, and after a surprise royal visit to Curtius's workshop, she manages to get herself invited to Versailles to tutor King Louis XVI's sister Elizabeth. But it is 1780, and only a few years later the monarchy is overcome by the Revolution. Marie manages to make it home, but the Paris she knows implodes, and her royal associations land her in trouble. There is nothing ordinary about this book, in which everything animate and inanimate lives, breathes, and remembers. 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. (Oct.) © Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.


Booklist Review

*Starred Review* Carey, who writes for both YAs and adults, presents an immensely creative epic that follows a poor orphan's rise to become the famous Madame Tussaud. Born in 1761, and nicknamed Little for her petite size, Marie Grosholtz becomes the unpaid apprentice of her late mother's odd, nervous employer, Dr. Curtius. After fleeing to Paris, they join forces with a redoubtable widow and her son. Their skills with wax attract attention, leading to their unusual museum and Marie's invitation to tutor Princess Elisabeth at Versailles. At a time of rampant social disparities, the museum becomes a great equalizer: a place where royalty, poets, and notorious murderers that is, their sculpted stand-ins can be viewed up close, and ordinary people can participate in a lottery to be models themselves. 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 oddball characters and gothic eccentricities evoke Tim Burton's work but without any fantastical elements; the reality is sufficiently strange on its own. Carey shows how the seemingly absurd, like royal servants lodging in cupboards and artisans forced to re-create newly executed people's heads in wax, becomes shockingly routine. The unique perspective, witty narrative voice, and clever illustrations make for an irresistible read.--Sarah Johnson Copyright 2018 Booklist


New York Review of Books Review

THE STRONGEST EMOTION we feel is fear, and the strongest kind of fear is fear of the unknown. I am paraphrasing H. P. Lovecraft, a founding father of American horror, who died in 1937, but this sentiment is very much relevant today. Fear. The gasp as your plane hits turbulence and drops; the creeping sensation as the front door squeaks open in the middle of the night; the shudder when you hear the dentist's drill buzz - we all know fear in some form or another. Fear drives us to do things we might never have considered doing, or to become someone we didn't plan to be. Fear forces us to choose between safety and risk. And this, of course, is the stuff of great fiction. THERE IS MUCH TO FEAR andlots of the unknown in Sarah Perry's superb literary Gothic novels. "The Essex Serpent," published last year, revolved around the existence of a monstrous water snake off the coast of East Anglia. It was a moody and mysterious book, one that felt like a cross between Wilkie Collins and the sensation novelist Mary Elizabeth Braddon, with a little cryptozoology - the study of undocumented life-forms such as Bigfoot or the Loch Ness monster - thrown in. Perry's new novel, melmoth (Custom House, $27.99), is another Gothic stunner, this time set in contemporary Prague. Perry has taken the Irish writer Charles Robert Maturin's 1820 horror novel "Melmoth the Wanderer" as a jumping-off point. The original Melmoth was a man who sold his soul for 150 years of additional life, and Maturin's novel is often seen as 19th-century social and political commentary on the hardships the Irish experienced under English rule. Perry's "Melmoth" is different in many respects, but achieves a similar effect: It is a scary novel that chills to the bone even as it points the way to a warmer, more humane, place. Melmoth walks the earth, a lonely and cursed woman, bearing witness to human suffering. In her long black robes, she appears and disappears throughout history, offering solace at moments of agony: to the heretic about to burn on a pyre of greenwood, to the boy who betrayed a Jewish family to the Nazis, to a woman during a mercy killing in Manila. Melmoth sees all, and wants nothing more than to take the guilty in hand, so that they might wander at her side. Bearing witness, watching, remembering - it is incredible how terrifying the simple act of seeing a crime can be. And, like a Bronte sister in a box at the opera, Perry observes the drama from an omniscient perch, examining her characters as if through a lorgnette. They are tortured and bereft, these suffering people, but seeing them matters. If Perry wants to say one thing it is: Look! "Look! It is winter in Prague: Night is rising in the mother of cities and over her thousand spires. Look down at the darkness around your feet, in all the lanes and alleys, as if it were a soft black dust swept there by a broom; look at the stone apostles on the old Charles Bridge, and at all the blue-eyed jackdaws on the shoulders of St. John of Nepomuk. Look!" There is much to see. Perry has created a Prague that envelops the reader in a bath of sensation. There are hot meals in cafes, good wine poured, music in the air, the thrill of a secret manuscript in the fingers, jackdaws watching from fences. Plot moves concentrically, the stories like rings radiating from a drop of rain. There is no terrible secret or single horrifying deed. We know Melmoth and her intent from the beginning. Terror is not the point, nor is menace, exactly, although the novel offers both. The real horror of this novel is not the ghostly Melmoth at all, but the cruelty we human beings enact upon one another. How we betray and torture. How the innocent are persecuted without mercy. Melmoth, with her piercing gaze, is never far away, and that is scary enough. While reading "Melmoth," I was reminded of something Jordan Peele, who won an Oscar for his horror screenplay "Get Out," said about storytelling: "When you entertain first, you can get at something socially profound or intellectual much easier." By the end of "Melmoth," you are left with a feeling that you have experienced something wholly entertaining, and that you have found humanity and compassion in the process. I AM A LONGTIME ADMIRER of Edward Carey's fiction. I read his first novel, "Observatory Mansions," when it was published in 2001 and liked it so much I tracked down his phone number and called him in England to tell him I was a fan. Facebook and Twitter have made such elaborate (and expensive) gestures obsolete, but I remain as impressed by his work now as I was then. LITTLE (Riverhead, $27), Carey's latest, is an eerie fictional memoir narrated by Marie Grosholtz, the girl who grew up to be Madame flissaud of waxwork renown. Marie is short and odd looking, "a little exclamation. A little protest. A little insult. In any case, a little something." Marie's journey from an orphaned child in 18th-century Alsace, to the art tutor of Madame Elisabeth, sister of Louis XVI, and then on to becoming Madame Ttissaud, the founder of the famous wax museum in London, is a fascinating story in itself. But Carey's talent makes her journey a thing of wonder. Marie's is a morbid tale, one that belongs - like James's "The Ttirn of the Screw" - in the uncanny aisle of the horror supermarket. Carey has an eye for the ominous. Although I knew perfectly well that Madame Ttissaud survives, I always felt sure that something awful would happen to Marie, that she would be dissected by the bizarre Dr. Curtius, who had body parts lying around his atelier, or beheaded during the French Revolution. That is Carey's talent: Each page leaves you off kilter. Each chapter a little breathless. For some readers of scary novels, "Little" may be a tad too whimsical. It is decidedly PG-rated. Although there is not a whole lot of white-knuckle terror happening, Marie's life is nonetheless a grueling fight against adversity. And while it may leave die-hard horror fans wanting more frightening fare, the soft scare may be a good thing for those readers who prefer to read before bed and sleep without nightmares. THAT CANNOT BE SAID for the anthology THE BEST OF THE BEST HORROR OF THE YEAR: 10 Years of Essential Short Horror Fiction (Night Shade, paper, $17.99), edited by the venerable queen of horror anthologies Ellen Datlow. Here, we have all the expected perpetrators of terror - sinister psychopaths, killer plagues and malevolent birds - but without any of the dark and stormy clichés. The stories in this collection feel both classic and innovative, while never losing the primary ingredient of great horror writing: fear. Datlow writes in her introduction that there are "zombies and vampires and serial killers and ghost stories and Lovecraftian horror herein," but that these conventions of horror writing "are not worn out... as long as writers take a fresh look at them." And they do, bringing readers to very scary places in ways I haven't experienced before. From escaping the Red Sweat in the south of France in Suzy McKee Charnas's "Lowland Sea" to the surreal "No Matter Which Way We Turnéd," by Brian Evenson, a two-page tale that raises goose bumps like an ice cube on skin, they are little machines of fright that pack a lot of emotion in a few pages. There are excellent stories by old guard terror-ists like Neil Gaiman, Dan Chaon and Peter Straub, but my favorites are by women, a group underrepresented in the traditional horror arena. "Black and White Sky," by the masterly Tanith Lee, is a brilliant story of an island-wide attack of magpies that cuts off England, Scotland and Wales from the rest of the world. As in Daphne du Maurier's novella "The Birds" (later adapted by Hitchcock into the film of the same title), vicious magpies become so dense that water and crops and sunlight are reduced to nothing. "Feathers drop from the air as well, a thin drizzle of feathers, an autumn of feathers, always falling. Black as ink, white as snow, often sheened mysteriously, mystically blue." Lee, who wrote over 90 novels and 300 short stories before her death in 2015, could not have foreseen Brexit. And yet, this story speaks more powerfully of the danger of isolationism than any political poll or newspaper I've read. Another of my favorites was "Better You Believe," by Carole Johnstone, a tightly written story of mountain climbers struggling to descend the south face of Annapurna. A blizzard hits and nature becomes the ruthless slayer that she is, picking off climbers one by one and sending them down into "the horror of all that silent blue dark." While the story is about survival, it is also about female rivalry, the sacrifices we make for love and what it really means to come out on top. We know we are in big trouble when Sarah, the narrator, thinks: "Bad things are about to happen." Bad things do happen. I won't say what. You should read it and find out. LOVECRAFT'S FEAR OF THE UNKNOWN IS at the center Of I AM BEHIND YOU (St. Martin's, $28.99), the latest by the Swedish novelist John Ajvide Lindqvist. In this masterwork of speculative fiction, four families in a Swedish campground wake to find their caravans and cars have been relocated to an unknown location comprising a "vast expanse of grass, each blade just over three centimeters long." There is no sun, no moon, no stars. The air is thick and heavy. There is no way to discern the direction they walk or their location on a GPS. Are they still in Sweden? Have they been taken by aliens to another planet? Fallen into another dimension? Nobody knows for sure why they have come there, or why they must hang around. They exist in an infinite field of unknowing. As one might expect, throwing a group of people together under such conditions brings out the worst in them. They beat, shoot at, steal from and cheat one another. All the jealousy and anger pushed below the surface of their lives begins - when the pressure of their situation is applied - to ooze out over the landscape. It is a sad microcosm of society, you might say, one with all the predictable results. But nothing is quite as predictable as it seems. We soon discover that there is a supernatural mechanism at work, a metaphysical machine that customizes lifechanging visions for each person. A black tiger appears to Carina; a chalk-white creature with a "pure gaze" fills Isabelle with sorrow and longing; the Bloodman appears to Donald, driving him mad; an old man appears to Stefan and his son. These characters have all experienced crisis-inducing visions earlier in their lives. But now, these apparitions push them to understand something essential and lifealtering about themselves. Such epiphanies render these unsavory characters much more interesting than they were at first glance. It is fun to watch them squirm. Their tendency toward violence, and their deplorable behavior, let me be vicariously violent and deplorable. "I Am Behind You" is pre-eminently readable. The pacing and structure kept me turning the pages. And while I was intrigued by the premise, it was the sheer weirdness of the book, its insistence on subverting expectations at every turn, that made it so good. "I Am Behind You" is my favorite kind of novel - utterly unclassifiable. It resists genre. While it might be called horror, it is also a suspense novel, a fantasy novel and a character-driven exploration of the state of humanity in our time. Lindqvist has been called the Stephen King of Sweden. I haven't read his other books, and so I cannot make general claims, but this novel, with its descent into an alternate universe and its insistence that reality can shift onto a weird and metaphysical track, has more in common with Haruki Murakami. And like Murakami, Lindqvist has defined his own style and genre. It's not horror. It's Lindqvist. IN ANDREW MICHAEL HURLEY'S novel DEVILS DAY (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, $26), fear is generated not from being lost, but from going home. John Pentecost returns to the Endlands when his grandfather dies, bringing his pregnant wife, Kat. Unfortunately, the place is cursed. According to legend, the Devil arrived 100 years ago, disguised himself in a ewe's fleece and infiltrated the land as "the maggot in the eye of the good dog, the cancer that rotted the ram's gonads, the blood in the baby's milk." One feels the Devil everywhere, in the "blackness that unfolded in all directions." The inhabitants of the Endlands dread the Devil's return, and have instituted a yearly ritual called Devil's Day to keep him at bay. But he is never far away. We feel him there, lurking, even as we discover that human treachery can keep pace with the Devil's evil ways. Hurley is a writer's writer, his descriptions of landscape and character precise and evocative. "The moors... appear suddenly, too vast and wide to take in all at once, uncoupling from each ridge the eye comes to and drifting away. The land up there doesn't roll so much as swell, like a sea frozen in its wildest uproar, full of deep troughs and dooming walls." The Endlands are a character themselves, one with a gloomy disposition and a tendency to selfmedicate. The novel is narrated from John's perspective. His voice is infused with the cadences of the local dialect, a style that is vibrant and melodic, yet just strange enough to throw me off balance from time to time. Such disorientation served a narrative purpose: I never felt fully comfortable in the novel. I was always left a little on edge, which is a good thing in a scary story. Hurley's ability to create unease, combined with his unquestionable talent, make "Devil's Day" a standout horror novel as well as a piece of literary art. There were times, however, when I struggled to keep reading. The pacing was lackadaisical, and I found that Hurley relies too heavily on ambience and dialogue to move his story forward. I wanted more to happen. Scenes in which friends and family talk about events that occurred long ago abound, leaving the reader to reconstruct past drama rather than experience it. Hurley is a fine writer line by line, but I wanted more story. I wanted more Devil. I wanted him to have his day. That said, "Devil's Day" is as spooky as it gets. When you've finished, you will feel that the Devil is out there, waiting for the inhabitants of the Endlands. Maybe even for you. DANIELLE TRUSSONl is the author of the Angelology series of novels. Her new novel, "The Ancestor," will be published next year.


Library Journal Review

Whimsy, magic, and macabre are words often used to describe the prose and illustrations of Carey (The Iremonger Trilogy), and this work of historical fiction is no exception. Anna Maria Grosholtz, aka Little, is a fatherless servant girl in the employ of a doctor with a particular skill for molding wax. Becoming his apprentice, Little moves from body parts to human heads and acquires a talent for realistic reproductions. Her ability manifests in befriending a princess, living in the Palace of Versailles, and navigating the tumultuous French Revolution. While literally shaping the heads of history with her hands, she also transforms her artistic skill into a commercial industry. Little is better known today as Madame Tussaud. Carey's vivid language and illustrations provide levity and wit within a imaginative but morbid tale of beheadings and destitution. VERDICT A wildly creative reimagining of the work and life of an artist more associated with George Clooney than -Maximilien Robespierre. Admirers of Gregory Maguire will be delighted. [See Prepub Alert, 5/4/18.]-Joshua Finnell, Colgate Univ., Hamilton, NY © Copyright 2018. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.


Excerpts

Excerpts

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 name given to that hurriedly christened child, though I would be referred to simply as Marie. I was not much bigger, at first, than the size of my mother's little hands put together, and I was not expected to live very long. And yet, after I survived my first night, I went on, despite contrary predictions, to breathe through my first week. After that my heart still kept time, without interruption, throughout my first month. Pigheaded, pocket-sized thing. My lonely mother was eighteen years old at my birth, a small woman, a little under five foot, marked by being the daughter of a priest. This priest, my grandfather, made a widower by smallpox, had been a very strict man, a fury in black cloth, who never let his daughter out of his sight. After he died, my mother's life changed. Mother began to meet people, villagers who called upon her, and among them was a soldier. This soldier, a bachelor somewhat beyond the customary age, possessing a somber temperament brought on by witnessing so many appalling things and losing so many soldier friends, took a fancy to Mother; he thought they could be happy, so to speak, being sad together. Her name was Anna-Maria Waltner. His name was Joseph Georg Grosholtz. They were married. My mother and my father. Here was loving and here was joy. My mother had a large nose, in the Roman style. My father, I believe, had a strong chin that pointed a little upward. That chin and that nose, it seems, fitted together. After a little while, however, Father's furlough was over, and he returned to war. Mother's nose and Father's chin had known each other for three weeks. To begin with, for always, there was love. The love my father and mother had for each other was forever present on my face. I was born with both the Waltner nose and the Grosholtz chin. Each attribute was a noteworthy thing on its own, and nicely gave character to the faces of those two families; combined, the result was a little ungainly, as if I were showing more flesh than was my personal due. Children will grow how they will. Some distinguish themselves as prodigies of hair growth, or cut teeth at a wonderfully young age; some are freckled all over; others arrive so pale that their white nakedness is a shock to all who witness it. I nosed and chinned my way into life. I was, certainly, unaware then of what extraordinary bodies I should come to know, of what vast buildings I would inhabit, of what bloody events I would find myself trapped within, and yet, it seems to me, my nose and my chin already had some inkling of it all. Nose and chin, such an armor for life. Nose and chin, such companions. Since girls of my stamp were not schooled, it was Mother who gave me education through God. The Bible was my primer. Elsewise, I fetched in logs, looked for kindling in the woods, washed plates and clothes, cut vegetables, fetched meat. I swept. I cleaned. I carried. I was always busy. Mother taught me industry. If my mother was busy, she was happy; it was when she stopped that uncertainty caught up with her, only to be dispelled by some new activity. She was constantly in motion, and movement suited her well. "Discover," she would say, "what you can do. You'll always find something. One day your father will return, and he'll see what a good and useful child you are." "Thank you, Mother. I shall be most useful, I do wish it." "What a creature you are!" "Am I? A creature?" "Yes, my own little creature." Mother brushed my hair with extraordinary vigor. Sometimes she touched my cheek or patted my bonnet. She was probably not very beautiful, but I thought her so. She had a small mole just beneath one of her eyelids. I wish I could remember her smile. I do know she had one. By the age of five I had grown to the height of the old dog in the house next to ours. Later I would be the height of doorknobs, which I liked to rub. Later still, and here I would stop, I would be the height of many people's hearts. Women observing me in the village were sometimes heard to mutter, as they kissed me, "Finding a husband will not be easy." On my fifth birthday, my dear mother gave me a doll. This was Marta. I named her myself. I knew her little body, about a sixth the size of my own; I learned it entirely as I moved it about, sometimes roughly, sometimes with great tenderness. She came to me naked and without a face. She was a collection of seven wooden pegs, which could be assembled in a certain order to roughly resemble the human figure. Marta, save my mother, was my first intimate connection with the world; I was never without her. We were happy together: Mother, Marta, and me. Excerpted from Little by Edward Carey All rights reserved by the original copyright owners. Excerpts are provided for display purposes only and may not be reproduced, reprinted or distributed without the written permission of the publisher.