Originally published: January 2021 (This edition July 2021)
Author: Frances Quinn
Published by: Simon & Schuster
Genre: Historical Fiction
Length: 384 pages
Reading dates: 17-22 April 2022
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 heart-warming 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.
I was lucky enough to win a copy of The Smallest Man on Twitter and decided to buddy read it with a friend (although we didn’t do a very good job talking about it!)
The Smallest Man is about a boy called Nat Davy who as the book starts is 10 years old and very much wants to grow taller, hoping a fairy at the local fair can grant his wish. But as the circus folk take an interest in him, Nat realises he is different – he is a dwarf. He is much loved by his mother and brother but his father thinks him unlucky and a burden and sells him to the Duke of Buckingham who in turn gifts him to 15 year old Queen Henrietta, presented in a pie much to her delight.
Nat becomes her friend and confidant but his life with the royal family is not without problems. He is mocked for his size and has to try hard to earn the respect of his peers. He makes good friends along the way including Jeremiah who is very tall so knows what it is like to be different.
Nat’s life is an eventful one, travelling across Europe with the Queen during the English Civil War, facing danger when they return to England and escaping with the Queen to her native France when it becomes too dangerous for her to stay.
Nat Davy is not a real person but is based on Jeffrey Hudson who was indeed the court dwarf to Queen Henrietta. Nat himself is a made up character and there are both similarities and differences between the two men. I really enjoyed this read – I love reading historical fiction from a period I am not familiar with and Quinn does a great job of weaving an interesting story within a historical period without being too heavy with the number of characters or political goings on. I sometimes find historical novels a bit dense with the amount of detail an author wants to include – they have done the research and rightly want to include it all. And while I do enjoy these novels, sometimes they are a little hard going, trying to keep track of all the events and characters.
A fascinating read with a superb central character in Nat, who is brave and courageous, yet vulnerable. A well crafted and researched debut novel which I thoroughly enjoyed! I’m looking forward to Quinn’s next novel, That Bonesetter Woman due out in July 2022!
About the author:
Frances Quinn grew up in London and read English at King’s College, Cambridge, realising too late that the course would require more than lying around reading novels for three years. After snatching a degree from the jaws of laziness, she became a journalist, writing for magazines including Prima, Good Housekeeping, She, Woman’s Weekly and Ideal Home, and later branched out into copywriting, producing words for everything from Waitrose pizza packaging to the EasyJet in-flight brochure.
In 2013, she won a place on the Curtis Brown Creative novel writing course, and started work on her first novel. The Smallest Man was published in 2021 by Simon & Schuster with her follow up, That Bonesetter Woman, set for 2022.
She lives in Brighton, with her husband and two Tonkinese cats.