Last year I had the pleasure of reading and reviewing this lively and honest book narrated by a small man who finds himself involved in a civil war, meeting royalty in trouble and much more. Moving, funny and brilliantly written, I thought I would repost my review to celebrate the paperback publication. If you enjoy historical fiction, I think you will enjoy this special book.
The Smallest Man by Frances Quinn
Nat Davy realises something at the age of ten, in 1625. He is small, the size of a toddler, so much smaller than anyone else in the village of Oakham. He realises that he is not growing, and an encounter in a fairground convinces him that even magic will not help him. He will become known as “the smallest man in England”, and will be called far worse in this story which begins in the early part of the ill fated reign of Charles I. His life story is fictional, but has its roots in the real story of the small man, Jeffrey Hudson, who was court dwarf to Queen Henrietta Maria. Nat’s career and life was largely imposed upon him, but in this novel he is shown as making choices, exerting his determination, being a much bigger person than anyone else. He remembers his mother’s advice :” 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”. This exquisite historical novel follows the fictional Nat as he finds himself in the unhappy retinue of a very young queen and discovers how he can encourage her, and as the country is tipped upside down how he can continue to help her. Love, despair, fear and hope are experienced through the eyes of a different sort of hero in this well written and plotted book I was so pleased to have the opportunity to read and review this book.
The novel begins with the boy Nat striving to grow by any means, or at the very least proving his usefulness. He knows, as a result of his overhearing his parents, that he will never earn his keep, never help his father find enough money to support his drinking habit, never be big enough to be loved. His sudden arrival at court is terrifying, let alone leaving his beloved mother and younger, but bigger, brother, Sam. He becomes the darling of a young woman whose husband’s loyalties are diverted to the Duke of Buckingham. Being the queen’s pet means that he lives well with food and clothing usually reserved for the extremely wealthy. He knows, however, that the weak and easily led king needs careful handling, as his quiet arrogance and vanity must be satisfied and channeled. Nat has his own enemies, those who label him as other, who taunt and bully a young man who happens to be very small. He must draw on a quiet friendship and his incredible determination to improve his position in a spectacular way.
This is a very special book that handles the vast political upheaval of civil war from the point of view of one individual who has to try and reason for himself the risks and dangers of life in a country where alliances can change overnight. Nat’s story, as he recounts his tale of struggling to survive and understand love, is honestly told. I found this such an engaging book and Nat a wonderful character. The research is so well integrated into the story that it is a pleasure to read, and this story is a beautifully written story. I recommend this novel to anyone who enjoys an insight into a very different life, but one with many recognisable points.