Edward Carey| Historical fiction, 2018
Absolutely delightful. Mostly. I found Carey’s writing to be very readable and engaging. And throughout the book are drawings that truly inform the story. (You may not want to listen to this book, but see it visually …)
Anne Marie Grosholtz, soon to be nicknamed Little, was born in 1761 in Alsace, France. As a very young girl, her parents died and she is apprenticed to Dr. Phillipe Curtius, who becomes her mentor and who raises her. Curtius fashions body parts of wax, for use in the scientific and medical communities. But soon, he has an idea to make wax heads, and together Marie and Curtius move to Paris into the home of Widow Picot and her son Edmond, The Monkey House, where they make heads of local personages and also murderers.
Most of the book is about her years as a child, a teenager, and a young adult growing her professional skills, but hated by the Widow Picot. As news of her skill grows, Marie is called to the Palace of Versailles, where the royal family lives, and she befriends and teaches Princess Elizabeth. She lives in a cupboard ... apparently typical of "lesser" people at that time n the Palace.
Delightful writing and a delightful story. About two-thirds of the way in, the turbulent French Revolution throws everything into chaos, and Curtius and Little begin to fashion heads of men who were killed in the revolution. Here is where the book becomes a little less delightful. The author Carey explains the gore and the effects of the French Revolution, but gives no context ... no why, no understanding of the politics. It took him 15 years to write this book. I think he did so much research and knew so much that he lost sight of what his readers did and did not know. The Revolution was not explained, and I found that confusing and lacking.
Many reviewers call this tale macabre. I did not experience it as macabre so much as a story about creativity and innovation; about the development of a unique business proposition; and about bizarre relationships among very-well developed characters. Carey’s characters are rich and deep.
Around the same time that the book begins to explore the Revolution, I went on the internet, seeking to understand some terms and some people and only then discovered that Little is historical fiction, loosely based on the life of Madame Tussaud. I did not know that for most of the book!
I definitely think this book is worth your time. I remain somewhat astounded by the characters and the times in which they live. Little was recommended by my friend Mary who read it in her book club.