I’m pleased to be sharing my review for one of my favourite books of 2021 again, to celebrate the recent paperback publication. Thank you to Jess Barratt at Simon and Schuster UK for a copy of the book. My thoughts are my own and not influenced by the gift.
The smallest man. The biggest heart. The mightiest story. A compelling story, perfect for fans of The Doll Factory and The Familiars.
Nat Davy longs to grow tall and strong and be like other boys, but at the age of ten, he’s confronted with the truth; he’s different, and the day when the stares and whispers stop is never going to come.
Narrowly escaping life in a freak show, he’s plucked from his family and presented as a gift to the new young queen of England – a human pet to add to her menagerie of dogs and monkeys. But when Nat realises she’s as lost and lonely as he is, the two misfits begin an unlikely friendship – one that takes him on an unforgettable journey, as England slides into the civil war that will tear it apart and ultimately lead the people to kill their king.
Inspired by a true story, and spanning two decades that changed England for ever, The Smallest Man is narrated by an irrepressible hero with his own unique perspective on life. His story is 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 read a large number of historical fiction books last year and I’m pleased to say that this is one of the best (I’ve given it 5 stars on Goodreads).
The story begins when Nat is a young boy, who has already been overtaken in height by his younger brother. He believes his mother, thinking that he will have a growth spurt soon. However, his childhood changes dramatically after the visit to the local fair, where he realises that he will never grow any taller.
Nat tries hard to grow and avoid being sold to the local fair, and he does escape this fate. But is being sold to the local Duke to become a living doll for the young Queen Mary, going to be any better?
Nat moves to a pampered life, no more going hungry, wearing beautiful clothes and relaxing on luxury furnishings but still misses his family. Thankfully he meets Jeremiah, who was also chosen for the royal palace for his unusual height (for being much taller than normal) and develops a much needed friendship. Nat is determined to prove he is a man, not just a boy and with help from friends, he becomes an important member of the Queen’s court, and he helps save the Queen on a number of occasions during the start of the English Civil War.
The storytelling is superb and the pages flew by. This is an era of history I knew very little about, but now feel I understand more. The hero of the story is Nat, who is determined to help his family and friends survive the Civil War, and is willing to risk his own life to do so. This is a fabulous debut novel and I look forward to reading more books by Frances Quinn.
Frances Quinn read English at King’s College, Cambridge, and is a journalist and copywriter. She has written for magazines including Prima, Good Housekeeping, She, Woman’s Weekly and Ideal Home. She lives in Brighton with her husband and who Tonkinese cats. The Smallest Man is her first novel. Follow her on Twitter @franquinn.