In revolutionary Paris, Marie or “Little” is an ambitious, orphaned servant who wants nothing but to please her master, Curtius, and continue her work as his assistant in his wax shop. We follow her from Switzerland to Paris to Versailles Palace and beyond as she hones her wax skills, attempts to break free of her servant title, and, eventually, as she transforms into Madame Toussaud.
Oh, this book. I have been reading Little for about a month now due to a perfect storm of holiday business, reading boredom, and the dark, macabre tone of this novel. It would be incorrect to say I didn’t enjoy it, because I found the writing style to be odd but enjoyable and the subject to be of interest. However, this book was easily two hundred pages too long and I am highly skeptical of the factual basis of the book on Madame Toussaud’s life.
First, the positives. The illustrations were wonderful and I found them so whimsical at times, especially when they were included to depict death. It was a nice break from the text to see whatever I was reading about on the next page. The author is also engaging with his long sentences and descriptive style. I enjoyed the often-changing scenery throughout the book, though if you’re expecting a sprawling Parisian background, you won’t get it here. Marie is a servant and rarely leaves a place they call “The Monkey House” and then, upon transferring to the palace, a small cupboard in Versailles. I think what really kept me reading this book throughout the whole 400+ pages is the well-crafted tone. The book is dark, it’s tragic, it’s realist to the core, and it has the most interesting macabre tint throughout the whole story.
Unfortunately, there was quite a bit that disappointed me about this book, too. The most glaringly obvious is that the book is just way too long. At times, the scenes were exactly the same and went on forever and ever. A good edit of this book would have made it much stronger. I am also a big character reader, and I wasn’t satisfied with Marie, with Edmond, or really with any of our main characters. It was hard to connect with them and they never graduated out of semi-flatness to me.
Overall? Meh. Definitely okay to skip this one, especially if you were hoping for a factual look at Madame Toussaud’s life.
Thank you to Riverhead Books for supplying this copy!
PUBLICATION DETAILS: Riverhead Books; October 23, 2018; 978-0525534327; 448 pages. Fiction -> Historical Fiction