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Edward Carey

Edward Carey is a novelist, visual artist, and playwright. His acclaimed YA series, the Iremonger Trilogy, was a fan favorite, with citations for Best Books of the Year by The New York Times, NPR, and Kirkus Reviews. Carey is also the author of two adult novels, Observatory Mansions and Alva & Irva. Born in England, he now teaches at the University of Texas in Austin, where he lives with his wife, the author Elizabeth McCracken, and their family.


“I marvel at the achievement of this book. . . . It's about humans, and bodies, and art, and loneliness. . . . I could talk about it forever.”


“A delightfully strange portrait of a young orphan honing her eccentric craft amid the tumult of the French Revolution. Carey’s flair for macabre whimsy has drawn comparisons to Tim Burton (take a look at the illustrations and you can see why). While death haunts this story, between vibrant characters and riveting historical detail, Little is a novel that teems with life.”

– Time

“[A] sweeping, Dickensian reimagining of the true story of Marie Grosholtz, the French orphan born in the 18th century who would go on to become iconic wax sculptress Madame Tussaud. Reader, you will just melt.”

– Entertainment Weekly “Must List”

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All the Faces Made of Wax


Edward Carey’s extraordinary novel Little follows Marie, an abandoned oddity whose small and spare physical presence sparks remarks like “little minor monster in a child’s dress” and “little bold face.” With a haunting cast of peripheral characters and a scattering of unsettling illustrations, Carey brilliantly animates the goings on within the tiny and seemingly inconsequential corners of a very dangerous world, namely Paris during the burgeoning French Revolution.

The book proceeds in decade-long chunks and covers the span of nearly ninety years. The resulting work is both claustrophobic and immense, delving deep and personal into unseen moments in history while never shying away from the darkness of obsession or the sweet sadness of love.

The novel begins as Marie, or “Little,” finds herself learning to become an apprentice to a doctor whose specialty is crafting wax models of human organs for academic purposes. As the doctor begins to set up a business of casting wax heads, Marie learns how to create representations of people through molding likenesses and drawing. She’s the one behind the illustrations within the text, which punctuate her experiences with a startling approach towards reality.

From the very first chapter, every moment that passes is a step further away from security for Marie. She does not live a happy life, nor does she find true kindness from any corner of her mostly miserable existence. Instead, she finds her agency and her power through creating representations of people, representations that refuse to be influenced by anger or vanity or even the ever-growing pressures of political power. Her skill is a dangerous one in a world in which everyone seems to be telling themselves stories about how the world works, while constantly failing to truly understand it.

The peripheral characters of Little can often read as petty and somewhat grubby, but they come to life in their wretched specificity. Because they are presented through the lens of Marie, they are always understood as human and always understood as dangerous. Faithful to her gift, Marie’s perspective never falters. She is singular in the way that she sees people and the world they inhabit. She does not make monsters out of people, though the people around her may behave monstrously.

The crime of seeing only fragments of a person’s humanity is one that is perpetuated by everyone in the book but the protagonist. Whether on the streets of Berne, in a tailor’s house in Paris, the halls of Versailles, or the creaking monstrosity that had once been a monkey hotel, Little documents the slow fading of humanity, both as an interior movement and as a response to exterior forces, featuring wax figures who are treated as if they are something worth seeing and people who are treated as if they are not.

Little asks what it means to capture a person’s image and what a person’s image can represent. It wonders what it means to strip others down to their parts and illustrates the varied behavior that people will justify when they see others as objects or monsters or threats.

In the end, the book itself serves as a solution to the question that it poses. Though Marie maintains a point of view that is ignored by all around her within the story, the text itself delivers her story in a way that makes her humanity impossible to ignore. Because she remains so singular in her perspective, she is, in a strange way, protected from the world’s machinations. Though she is never understood by anyone in the story, she is understood by the reader. Through the clever machinations of Little, Marie’s story is one that has been told in full.

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