The Smallest Man
By Frances Quinn
Rated: 4 stars ****
Enchanting, refreshingly original with an uplifting quality, The Smallest Man is a great historical fiction book that eases readers through an amazing journey.
Thanks to Jess Barratt at Simon & Schuster for gifting me a proof copy for review.
‘I want you to remember something, Nat. You’re small on the outside. But inside you’re as big as everyone else. You show people that and you won’t go far wrong in life.’
A compelling story perfect for fans of The Doll Factory, The Illumination of Ursula Flight and The Familiars.
My name is Nat Davy. Perhaps you’ve heard of me? There was a time when people up and down the land knew my name, though they only ever knew half the story.
The year of 1625, it was, when a single shilling changed my life. That shilling got me taken off to London, where they hid me in a pie, of all things, so I could be given as a gift to the new queen of England.
They called me the queen’s dwarf, but I was more than that. I was her friend, when she had no one else, and later on, when the people of England turned against their king, it was me who saved her life. When they turned the world upside down, I was there, right at the heart of it, and this is my story.
Inspired by a true story, and spanning two decades that changed England for ever, The Smallest Man is a heartwarming tale about being different, but not letting it hold you back. About being brave enough to take a chance, even if the odds aren’t good. And about how, when everything else is falling apart, true friendship holds people together.
The cover is amazing! It takes you on a journey right there and then, with the inside leading you into the life of Nat Davy – The Smallest Man, which is based on a true story, although this a fictional novel, but there is a strong basis of truth to it. The first page is just utterly inspired! The narrative of how it tells readers, almost accidentally (although obviously it is cleverly thought out), of a little nugget here and there of Nat’s early life just in where he is not going to start his story, but then it all begins in Oakham.
This isn’t your usual sort of story set in such historical times, this takes readers to the fair and not just any fair – to one featuring freak shows and a decision to be made about whether to sell Nat to it or not has to be made. This makes for some great reading and is so different from other historical fiction novels. There are of course characters to be found like a duke, a queen and a king, lords and more, which adds to the exquisitiveness; but then if that doesn’t capture you, there are also gallows and Catholic martyrs. There are also run-ins with Crofts and his gang of friends.
This isn’t some lavish period piece of a season of dancing, nor is it some romp through the bedcovers, this tells a whole different side to history, and more pertinently, within 1625 and still has a richness to the story and in its textures and scenery. It is through the eyes of The Smallest Man and how his life is and how he is different from other people and seen as a freak. There is a tender emotion within the book as well as a sense of surviving and accomplishing against the odds and also shows that no matter how unlikely a friendship is to be formed, there are possibilities that they can. This book has hope within it and is which in turn adds an uplifting quality it.
Going deeper into the royal family and what are essentially death threats changes the tone, but still in keeping with the book and moves this plucky, refreshingly written story onto killer plots and a different layer of intrigue.
The Author’s Note is also fascinating and sheds a bit of light on a man, who perhaps was more on the edges of history, but nonetheless interesting.
Some praise for the book:
I loved this book – a fascinating tale of extraordinary accomplishment, and a story about how anything is possible and how love has always been a beacon of hope’ Phillip Schofield
‘An enchanting tale about a small man with a big heart. Nat Davy is so charming that I couldn’t bear to put this book down. I loved it’ Louise Hare, author of This Lovely City
The finished copy has some lovely green sprayed edges to it