Publisher: Gallic Books
Published: 4th October 2018
This book was such an absolute treat!
I knew it was going to be my kinda thing when I read the blurb. As you may know, I’m bang into historical fiction these days, especially if it has a dark edge and this book fitted the bill perfectly.
Little is the tale of young Anne Marie Grosholtz – who later goes on to become the Madame Toussauds that we all know for her waxwork fame.
Told right from Marie’s birth in 1761 in Alsace, through to her being orphaned at a young age and being taken under the wing of ex physician and wax model enthusiast Dr Curtius. We hear of Marie’s involvement with the first tentative steps into taking wax models of first body parts and then heads of the rich and noble.
Marie is dubbed ‘Little’ by those around her due to her diminutive stature, however her personality is anything but. We follow Marie during her tutelage with Dr Curtious as she learns the various techniques used to create a waxwork model of someones head. Left with only her mother’s nose and her fathers chin (and quite literally her fathers jaw…..you’ll see) Marie cleaves herself to Dr Curtious and makes him her only family.
When they travel to Paris and join forces with a tailors widow and her son, life for Marie takes an altogether different turn. Widow Picot and her son Edmund help the wax business take off inside the walls of The Monkey House on the Boulevard.
When the lust and curiosity for seeing the cast heads of noblemen wanes, the business branches out into murder. The wax heads of murderers who have been sentenced to death.
Little eventually catches the eye of Princess Elisabeth who has Marie sent to the palace of Versailles to become her drawing tutor. Here, Marie uses her skills to model the heads of the royal family (and lives in a cupboard!).
This novel is so brimming and vibrant with life. Each and every character is bold and bursting with personality. Set against a back drop of the French Revolution this story is grim, gruesome and utterly gory. But in a fabulous way! (Although it’s worth mentioning that if you’ve not got a strong constitution there are certain parts you may struggle with!). I of course have the constitution of an ox and loved every minute of it, the gorier the better!
Marie has lived about 5 lives by the time we say goodbye to her at the end of the book! She is such a determined child, a tenacious learner and has buckets full of bravery. She lives through various heartbreaks allowing each of them to make her stronger still. She experiences great loss and great loves in her lifetime and is such a fascinating determined little thing.
She is treated terribly by the Widow Picot who does not appreciate her talents or her close bond with Dr Curtious. But she forges on and remains a loyal servant and assistant.
It was such a privilege to share Little’s journey, her fates and fortunes and of course her failures.
Such a quirky tale, the like of which I don’t think I’ve ever encountered. This fictionalised account of Madame Toussauds life has made me want to find out more about who she actually was and what she had to live through to become the Toussauds we know.
Now of course it is usually just the writing I would be reviewing (with occasional fawning over a beautiful cover!) but this book has an abundance of stunning illustrations punctuating the story. The author Edward Carey is the illustrator and he has an amazing talent. Such a lovely (if occasionally gory!) touch. His illustrations really bring the characters to life and you can see them easily in your minds eye. Of course the cover itself is a stunner (and the disembodied boob gave my children no end of mirth!).
A striking, imagination bending romp through the French Revolution via the world of wax, gently and macabrely humorous, Little is someone who will remain in your heart forever.
This stunner of a book should be gracing your bookshelves this autumn. You know it makes sense.
See you soon.
Bookish Chat. Xxx