The Smallest Man

‘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 FactoryThe 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.

Maybe it was because I can’t travel in a literal sense, that I’m getting so much pleasure from time travelling through the books that I’m choosing of late. I can’t stop reaching for historical fiction, and this is one of the best books I’ve read in this genre this year. I was absolutely intrigued by the premise of this book featuring Nat Davey, a fictional character based on Jeffrey Hudson, court dwarf to Queen Henrietta Maria. This book is a stunning tapestry of fact and fiction, taking real characters and moments from history and bringing them to life before our eyes. I was delighted to be invited on the tour by Anne Cater & Random Things Tours and found myself absolutely intrigued by this fasciniating insight into an uncertain and turbulent time in history…

gold and blue crown

This book definitely did not disappoint, it grabbed me and pulled me right into Nat’s story where we are absolutely carried away by this unforgettable and resilient character. Life is difficult enough for people who are different now – you can only imagine how much more difficult things were then. We get to hear about events from such a unique perspective and this really added to the story for me. It’s a book that you’ll find hard to believe it’s fiction as you’ll become so caught up in Nat’s story and you’ll be rooting for him as his fortunes rise and fall as he shows what a survivor he is in an uncertain world.

I absolutely loved the unique atmosphere of this novel and definitely found it quite addictive. It was intriguing to imagine a world in which your choices and next direction has been wholly surrendered to the choices of others and knowing that your fortunes depend on your ability to turn your difficulties into opportunities and to use your wit and wisdom to ensure that you might be small, but you are definitely far from insignificant…

one-point perspective photography of building's interior

This novel presents this period of history in a fresh original way which makes the story linger at the edges of our consciousness even when we aren’t reading it. Nat Davy feels very much like a real person, despite the distance of time between us and his voice sprang off the page – rather than sounding like a mechanism to explore a historical tale – which I’ve often found in novels which want to represent something that happened in the past. This is a really unique novel which has to be experienced to truly realise how special it is. I’d love to see it on the silver screen and hear Nat talk directly to camera as he draws us into his story:

“It’s been quite a life, the one I’ve had; I was there when they turned the world upside down, and I was there, right at the heart of it all, during the turbulent times that led us down the road to that day. So I got to thinking that I should write it all down, because there’s been a lot said about those times, and not all of it’s right.”

The Smallest Man – Frances Quinn –

Frances Quinn is a talented and original writer – and I really enjoyed researching the character from the famous paining for yourself, after you’ve read the book. You will be fascinated to uncover all that Nat went through and shocked that you didn’t know more about this fascinating time in our nation’s history. It is a story filled with skilful description and perceptive characterisation that add up to its sense of atmosphere and your relationship with the characters builds and builds as you experience the challenges and constraints of Nat’s unique circumstances and everything that he has to go through as he battles to defy his circumstances and create a life worth having for himself

9 of hearts and Queen of clubs playing cards

The Smallest Man asks us to think about the way that our personalities evolve through, because of and despite of all our experiences and doesn’t allow us to dismiss these characters as merely fictional – this novel is based on a real story, after all. The story is so unputdownable due to the engaging and direct nature of Nat’s voice and because it’s so immersive I couldn’t stop thinking about the rhythm of its narrative and the bravery of this indomitable character that inspired this fictional tale.

This is a book that I know I’ll be recommending to lots of readers as I was totally immersed in its characters, its pace and the way it really made me think. I can’t wait to see what Frances Quinn does next. The idea that life for people in the past can be a lot darker than you might have learned in your history books is a fascinating one, and I think that this would make an excellent Book Group read as it would be sure to provoke lots and lots of discussion and comment about a part of history that most people don’t know very much about…

Treat yourself to a copy and discover this turbulent and fascinating story for yourself

Writer On The Shelf

Frances Quinn read English at Cambridge, and is a journalist and copy-editor. She completed the Curtis Brown Creative Course in 2015. The Smallest Man is her debut novel.

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