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The wry, macabre, unforgettable tale of an ambitious orphan in Revolutionary Paris, befriended by royalty and radicals, who transforms herself into the legendary Madame Tussaud.

In 1761, a tiny, odd-looking girl named Marie is born in a village in Switzerland. After the death of her parents, she is apprenticed to an eccentric wax sculptor and whisked off to the seamy streets of Paris, where they meet a domineering widow and her quiet, pale son. Together, they convert an abandoned monkey house into an exhibition hall for wax heads, and the spectacle becomes a sensation. As word of her artistic talent spreads, Marie is called to Versailles, where she tutors a princess and saves Marie Antoinette in childbirth. But outside the palace walls, Paris is roiling: The revolutionary mob is demanding heads, and... at the wax museum, heads are what they do.

In the tradition of Gregory Maguire's Wicked and Erin Morgenstern's The Night Circus, Edward Carey's Little is a darkly endearing cavalcade of a novel—a story of art, class, determination, and how we hold on to what we love.

448 pages, Hardcover

First published October 4, 2018

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About the author

Edward Carey

30 books439 followers
Edward Carey is a writer and illustrator who was born in North Walsham, Norfolk, England, during an April snowstorm. Like his father and his grandfather, both officers in the Royal Navy, he attended Pangbourne Nautical College, where the closest he came to following his family calling was playing Captain Andy in the school’s production of Showboat. Afterwards he joined the National Youth Theatre and studied drama at Hull University.

He has written plays for the National Theatre of Romania and the Vilnius Small State Theatre, Lithuania. In England his plays and adaptations have been performed at the Young Vic Studio, the Battersea Arts Centre, and the Royal Opera House Studio. He has collaborated on a shadow puppet production of Macbeth in Malaysia, and with the Faulty Optic Theatre of Puppets.

He is also the author of the novels Observatory Mansions and Alva and Irva: the Twins Who Saved a City, which have been translated into thirteen different languages, and both of which he illustrated. He always draws the characters he writes about, but often the illustrations contradict the writing and vice versa and getting both to agree with each other takes him far too long. He has taught creative writing and fairy tales on numerous occasions at the Writers Workshop at the University of Iowa, and at the Michener Center and the English Department at the University of Texas at Austin.

He has lived in England, France, Romania, Lithuania, Germany, Ireland, Denmark, and the United States. He currently lives in Austin, Texas, which is not near the sea.

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5 stars
3,406 (31%)
4 stars
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3 stars
2,155 (19%)
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83 (<1%)
Displaying 1 - 30 of 1,550 reviews
Profile Image for Beata.
729 reviews1,113 followers
May 30, 2019
Not long ago I read a biography of Mme Tussaud, and though it was interesting, there was some dryness in it due to the fact that the author incorporated a lot of history into the book, which is understandable taking into consideration in when Marie lived and how much the Revolution affected her life. LITTLE is at the other end of the stick. The novel is about Marie and how she saw the world. If I were asked to use just one word that best describes this novel, I would choose ‘observations’. Marie is a great observer, focused on the physicality rather than psychology. The author even added lots of drawings, in Marie’s hand, which was rather intriguing. In my opinion, as a work of fiction, LITTLE provides some insight into Marie’s life, but please remember, this is not a biography or a romance. Carey’s Little is loosely based on the real Mme Tussaud. This novel is not easy to follow as the narration is rather rough than smooth, however, I got used to it after several pages, and was drawn to this book, and found it unputdownable. Will I put it on the shelf to-be-read-again-in-the-near-future? No, I do not think so, but I am certain I will remember Little for a long time.
Profile Image for Beverly.
805 reviews291 followers
July 20, 2019
Little is a big book (in size and storytelling ability) about the imagined childhood, and adult life of Madame Tussaud. It is fiction, and some parts are completely fabricated, so it's not trying to tell you about her real life, but rather how she thought and how the people around her helped shape her. I enjoyed it, especially the illustrations scattered throughout the text. The chapters are short, but the text is cryptic, so it is difficult to follow some times.

It is sort of morbid, because there's a lot of corpses and body parts in the mix, since she lived in Paris during the Revolution and she and her mentor Dr.Curtius actually modeled some of their wax heads off of the genuine decapitated heads. She and Dr. Curtius were the darlings of the French Revolution and then later were imprisoned, as so many were. Neither lost their heads though and Marie Tussaud went on to be a successful artist in London. She had two sons who also followed after their mother and Madame Tussauds lives on through her ancestors and admirers.
This entire review has been hidden because of spoilers.
Profile Image for Hannah Greendale.
703 reviews3,275 followers
April 12, 2019
A fictionalized retelling of Madame Tussaud, known for her wax figures of famous (and infamous) persons, sprinkled with grim illustrations and wry observations. Carey initially hooks his audience with the amusing, macabre first-person voice of young Madame Tussaud, christened Anne Marie Grosholtz at birth. The early years of her life - filled with sorrow, gore and intrigue - are easily the best chapters of the book.

However, the narrative really slows down around the midpoint and, shifting into the turbulent years of the French Revolution, slogs toward a conclusion that seems as if it will never come. Little is particularly gruesome in its final chapters.

Woeful, ghastly, and cumbersome, Little will delight some and disturb others.
We were ushered into a crowded bedroom. The crowd parted, revealing a man upon the bed, naked save for an old dressing gown, a sort of white turban wrapped around his head. The face was moon-shaped and very pitted, the large eyelids were not quite closed, the wide mouth was open, the tongue sticking out a little of a corner, the skin was diseased, sores, scabs, broken wheals. There was a great hole in the chest, a deep, dark mouth; you could see right down its throat. The man had begun to congeal; the liquids inside had steadied and started their darkening.

Profile Image for Rebecca.
3,602 reviews2,573 followers
January 23, 2019
(4.5) Little is Edward Carey’s deliciously macabre novel about Madame Tussaud, who starts life as Anne Marie Grosholtz in Switzerland in 1761 and loses both parents by the age of six. Known as Marie, she soon picks up the nickname “Little” at the studio where she helps Dr. Philip Curtius make wax anatomical models. When the indebted Curtius flees to Paris, Marie goes with him as his servant. Along with their landlady, a tailor’s widow named Charlotte Picot, and her son Edmond, they form a makeshift family and a successful business, making wax heads and then dressing them in wigs and clothes to create whole figures of (in)famous citizens to display in their new quarters, a former monkey house.

In the years to come Marie occupies an uncomfortable in-between position: she’s treated like a servant but never paid, and though she’s fond of Curtius and falls in love with Edmond she’s made to understand that she’s not their equal. However, her fortunes change when Princess Élisabeth, on an unannounced visit to the Cabinet of Dr. Curtius, is impressed with Marie’s art and anatomy skills and invites her to be her sculpture tutor at Versailles. Marie and the young royal make wax models of local peasants’ ailments so they can pray for them. By the time Marie returns to the monkey house, the Revolution is in full swing and there’s widespread hunger not just for wax heads in cabinets, but for real decapitated ones. It will take cunning and luck for Marie and her odd little family to survive the years of upheaval.

The grimy picture of eighteenth-century Paris reminded me of Pure by Andrew Miller, and I often thought of Dickens as I was reading. Little starts off most like David Copperfield: a first-person “I am born”-style account with each chapter headed by a pithy summary. The characters have exaggerated physical features and recurring verbal tics, and there is an unmistakable message that whether a royal or a lowly servant we are all the same inside. Of course, as that pivotal July 14th approaches, the Dickensian echo is more along the lines of A Tale of Two Cities.

I think the novel would benefit from a more suggestive title and could stand to be a bit shorter, but it’s still a delightful piece of historical fiction and another hit from Gallic Books, responsible for two of my other favorite reads of the year so far, Salt Creek and The Life and Loves of Lena Gaunt. Part of the joy of reading it is encountering Carey’s slightly grotesque black-and-white illustrations, dozens of which appear through the text.

In fact, I’ll sheepishly admit that before I read this I had Edward Carey confused for Edward Gorey, who was known for his ghoulish black-and-white drawings. Carey, an English playwright and novelist whose previous books include the Iremonger Trilogy, is married to Elizabeth McCracken and teaches at the University of Austin, Texas. After university he worked as a steward at Madame Tussaud’s in London, which is how he first came across her story. It’s an unforgettable one.

Originally published, with images, on my blog, Bookish Beck.
Profile Image for Donna.
541 reviews181 followers
December 10, 2018
Little did I know when starting this book that there would be little historical accuracy within its pages and little regard for the reader when the author was more bent on writing a farce than anything resembling a true to life story with well developed characters who speak in natural dialogue. Instead, the author has created what reads like a stage play, peopled by one dimensional marionettes that jump to his tune.

How did I find out this book was inaccurate when it came to chronicling the life of Madame Tussaud, born Marie Grosholtz? When reading the beginning of this book, I found the early years of Marie’s life portrayed in it to be incredible, especially the way in which her parents died, leaving her an orphan at the age of six and at the mercy of her mother’s employer. So incredible were these events that I started researching Marie’s life online and was surprised to find that her father had died even before she was born and her mother had lived to a ripe old age even by today’s standards. And these were just the first of such discrepancies as I googled character after character in the book and found only a portion of them having been based on real people or people who Marie crossed paths with over the course of her life. So I came to see that this book was a work of fiction with only some historical facts included that I could rely upon.

Skipping ahead to the acknowledgements, and searching for a bibliography that wasn’t there, and then reading a few of the author’s interviews online, I learned that the author worked on this book off and on for fifteen years, doing much research that included sources he didn’t trust as accurate, even Madame Tussaud’s memoirs. And after abandoning his research for a while in favor of writing YA fantasy books, he then became interested in approaching a book about Marie’s life in a similar manner in which he would be free to disregard historical sources at will and supply the reader with something he considered entertaining. He only names one historical source he used extensively as an aid to give an accurate portrayal of Paris during the time of the French Revolution. Too bad he didn’t care so much for accuracy where Marie’s life was concerned. He freely admits to making her an orphan early on to make the story more dramatic and compared it to how many a Disney film do just the same thing. Well yes, but Bambi isn't exactly an historical figure, unlike Madame Tussaud. He didn’t even bother to chronicle her later years when she married and began her wax museum work on her own. The author merely skimmed over these later years, giving the reader no idea how a woman during those times could succeed in such a business. Instead, he focused on the earlier years and ghoulishly lingered over the beheadings and the waxwork associated with them during that tumultuous time in France. After a while, I became numb to it.

And the author’s skit-like writing is nothing new as I recently read a fiction novel called Undermajordomo Minor in pretty much the same style. The writing technique, when maintained for an entire novel, is impressive technically speaking, but tiring to read and ultimately gives the reader a bit of entertainment, but leaves him with nothing lasting, in my opinion. A person would do better to read any number of historical accountings of Marie’s life or read whatever exaggerated account of her life she wrote in her memoirs. It couldn’t be any more false than what was written in this book. There were some nice illustrations in it by the author, and I appreciated the detailed writing, and a seemingly accurate sense of time and place, so I’m giving the book credit for this with two stars. But reader beware, depending upon what you’d like to get out of this book, especially if you’re looking for historical accuracy.
Profile Image for fourtriplezed .
455 reviews96 followers
January 29, 2022
To quote a GR friend's review that I recently read he described a book as “…..an unusual choice for me but I was really impressed with it.” Indeed, I felt the same about this strange novel, Little by Edward Carey. It is certainly a pleasant surprise for this reader and is another gift from the magnificent neighbour libraries (Free Little Library) that I continually wander past each week. I may not have ever thought to read this once upon a time. An unusual choice.

I had recently listened to a podcast on the French Revolution, something I knew little about, and found myself fascinated. I must read more, I mused. When going for a walk a while back and checking a neighbourhood library to see what gems I could maybe find, this was of interest. Odd line drawings on the front cover of body parts, a quote by Margaret Atwood making praise about it being narrated by Madame Tussaud and one quote saying it was “unique”. A quick flick through and there is more drawing and I can see there is made mention of revolutionary France, voilà! Possibly read when I eat my lunch at work, I thought. What worse than to peruse a chapter or two and return it if it went nowhere? Return it I will, but with hope that the next person that picks this up will enjoy it as much as I did.

This is an imagined autobiography of Maria Grosholtz. Maria tells her story from birth until her move to London later in life. From her being orphaned as a child and with that beholden to a wax artist by the name of Curtius (who treated her well without him actually realising it), through to both of them moving to Paris, their trials and tribulations of living in poverty and onto early success then downfall later during The Reign of Terror on Paris 1793/94 makes a story well told. Author Edward Carey has supplied finely placed drawings throughout that add something different to his very readable writings as Maria in the first person. In this reviewer's opinion this is a very clever novel as not once did I feel anything other than it being a female telling her story. Also, impressive was the ability of the author to weave historical figures in and out of the story, that had me running to see if they actually existed or not. As an example, check out Louis-Sébastien Mercier and his bestselling novel of the times as read by Louis XVI that was named according to wiki……….
“L'An 2440, rêve s'il en fut jamais (literally, in English, The Year 2440: A Dream If Ever There Was One; but the title has been rendered into English as Memoirs of the Year Two Thousand Five Hundred or Memoirs of the Year 2500, and also as Astraea's Return, or The Halcyon Days of France in the Year 2440: A Dream)”

There are many more historical figures of those times that appear in this well told tale, but then there are others who are figments of the imagination. A fine blend of the fact of the time and the imagination of an author is this novel.

Recommended to anyone that likes their novels imaginative.
Profile Image for Heidi The Reader.
1,376 reviews1,432 followers
March 24, 2019
A historical fiction novel about Madame Tussaud, otherwise known as Anne Marie Grosholtz, and how she became a legendary wax maker.

"I was not much bigger, at first, than the size of my mother's little hands put together, and I was not expected to live very long. And yet, after I survived my first night, I went on, despite contrary predictions, to breathe through my first week." pg 14, ebook

And though it is "historical fiction," rather than biography, Edward Carey has written many true facts into this story.

Though she was born in Switzerland, Anne Marie ended up in Paris, France, around the time of the Revolution. One can imagine that it was not a simple thing to be a foreign-born person in France at the time of the Revolution. It wasn't even easy being French during the Revolution.

Carey included numerous pencil sketches throughout the text, as if Anne Marie was writing an autobiography with her own artwork to accompany it. Sometimes the drawings are surprising, other times macabre, and I felt that it added quite a lot to the "feeling" of this story. It makes it feel more real.

Anne Marie grows up in the home of Doctor Curtius, a man who is more accustomed to dealing with wax than real people. It makes for some interesting interactions.

"I'm not so very used to people. I haven't had much practice lately. I'm very out of... practice. And you need to have people around you, you need to have people to talk to... or you might forget, you see, how they... are exactly." pg 24, ebook

When both her parents die, leaving Anne Marie unexpectedly alone, she comes to rely on Doctor Curtius, and together they make a new life in Paris with an unfriendly widow and her son.

"I put myself away. I came up with the great vanishing system, in which I could retreat so deep within myself that, though I might appear still the same creature, actually I was very different." pg 103, ebook.

Her adventures take her to Versailles and back, where she casts in wax some of the most famous people of her era.

If you look at images of Madame Tussaud's work, (I used Google), it's astonishing how real people from hundreds of years ago appear through their wax replicas. Take, for example, the mistress of King Louis XV, Madame Du Barry. Absolutely gorgeous.

For the most part, this book whet my appetite to discover the "real" Madame Tussaud. Her history truly was surprising. Highly recommended for readers who enjoy historical fiction.
Profile Image for Will.
208 reviews
November 18, 2018
The description of Edward Carey’s Little intrigued me. It sounded like something I would enjoy, and the GR reviews were terrific. I hadn’t, however, read any reviews from critics so I was still a bit wary and approached the novel not knowing what to expect. It took me by surprise and caught me totally off-guard. I was immediately captivated by the story of the orphaned Marie, known as Little due to her small stature, and the numerous hardships she faced as the apprentice/servant of a wax sculptor. Set in Paris during the 1700’s, the novel could easily be described as Dickensian in its style, tone and its cast of thoroughly odd and memorable characters. I am, admittedly, a sucker for that sort of thing so Carey grabbed my attention in his opening pages. The novel is narrated by Little and her voice is infectious and engaging, filled with warmth and understanding. Combining determination with an indominable spirit, Little overcomes many obstacles, including the French Revolution, to become, by the novel’s end, the famous Madame Tussaud.

Carey has done his research and the novel is filled with real historical figures and events. Still, this is fiction and in his Acknowledgments Carey states that, while most of the story of Tussaud’s life in the novel is based in fact, parts of her life were ‘rather vague, sometimes untrustworthy’. Therefore, much of the novel and Little’s life is the author’s fictional imaginings. And what great imaginings they are! How witty, how macabre it all is. Strange, quirky and often humorous - the novel appeals and delights in so many ways.

This was such an enjoyable and entertaining read that I can’t help but give it 5 stars. It was often hard for me to put it down. The writing is very good and the many, many illustrations that accompany the text are wonderful, adding so much to the overall effect. These illustrations, also done by the author, help to explain why it took him fifteen years to complete this novel. They also contribute to my 5-star rating – they had to be factored in when reviewing the novel as they were rightfully deserving of their own stars. This was such a joy to read and, although I may not have realized it, it was exactly what I needed – the perfect book at the perfect time. I highly recommend this one.
Profile Image for Jennifer.
1,727 reviews6,662 followers
November 3, 2018
Little is a re-imagining of the woman behind the famous tourist attraction: Madame Tussauds, a wax museum that displays wax sculptures of famous people and popular characters. Loosely based, Little follows this resilient woman from birth as Anne Marie Grosholtz to age eighty-nine as Marie Tussaud, along with the transformation of an abandoned monkey house into the start of a wax empire. French culture, history, royalty, war, death, art, life, and love...it all melts together in this lengthy piece of historical fiction. Edward Carey's storytelling relays that while little Marie's life was never easy, the many significant challenges provided her character with adaptability, determination, and excellent problem-solving skills. I especially liked her surprising humanity while surrounded by death masks and wax sculptures day in and day out:
“There is a melancholy to wax heads: they were never born, they capture life, but life shrugs away from them. In the quietest moments, I whispered to these half-personalities: 'I'll sit with you,' I said. 'Are you frightened of the dark? Don't be.'”
Little may interest fans of re-imagined history/fictional biographies and/or readers who have a fondness for the well-known wax museum. Personally, I struggled with remaining consistently invested in these characters as they never quite came to life for me. Like Marie, I was longing for the chance to engage with a shell that would not fully animate. However, I seem to be in the minority so maybe it was just me. If this sounds like a storyline you would enjoy, then consider checking it out for yourself!

My favorite quote:
“This life, I thought, goes on and keeps surprising. This little box, this chapter, ends here, sealed tight from those others that surround it, so that those other people of different chapters may not come in here and disturb, so that its vault may be sealed up, never spilling beyond its boundaries but kept tight shut and precious, and Godly and triumphant, and wonderful too. But remain only itself. Wax, also, is privacy. Wax seals letter. Wax keeps all the world's words where they should be, until the right hands come to let them out.”
Profile Image for Fionnuala.
778 reviews
February 5, 2020
So I learned not only that your loved one may be forbidden you, given away to someone else, but also that though you love someone they may run from you, and you may open your arms but they shall not come in. The Élisabeth I loved was no longer. What was left was a shell, a plaster personage. Hollow. Inside was nothing but stale air unable to get out. How I wished to crack her open.

Edward Carey's fictional version of Madame Tussaud's life, stuffed to the gills with quirky detail though it was, felt like a shell to me. I couldn't believe in his main character and was glad to escape the stale air of the narrative by the end.

I think I might crack open Marie Grosholz Tussaud's own version of her unusual life however. That a little girl from Alsace went from modeling wax heads of famous living people in the pre-revolutionary period in France to working with the real heads of famous dead people during the Revolution is macabre and fascinating at the same time.
She is a woman who really made the most of her moment in time.
Profile Image for Patricija || book.duo.
532 reviews367 followers
June 8, 2021

Vaškas nemeluoja, saugo paslaptis ir net gyvenimus. O kad juos keičia – abejonės jokios. Vašku grįstas Madame Tussaud gyvenimas, tik kad bėda, jog nei širdis, nei ašaros ne vaškiniai – jei būtų, tikriausiai lengviau išeitų viską išlydyti ir pradėti iš naujo. Ir jei kada milijoninė Madame Tussaud vaško skulptūrų industrija jums atrodė glamūriška, istorijos pradžioje glamūro nebuvo visai. Nebuvo ir pabaigoje. Ir vis dėlto, 15 metų rašyta knyga nėra persmelkta nei nusivylimu, nei slogumu, o ją pagerinti galėtų nebent Timas Burtonas, ėmęsis „Mažę“ ekranizuoti.

Skaitant neapleido mintis, kad „Mažė“ beveik dikensiška – istorija tokia gyva, maloniai didesnės apimties, o ir papildyta iliustracijomis, kurios suaugusiųjų knygose atsiranda retokai – o ir kodėl? Gero paveikslėlio galia nudžiugina ne tik mažuosius. Ir tikrai būtų nudžiuginusi Mažę. Matot, kaip čia sužaidžiau? Iliustracijos tamsios ir makabriškos, bet stulbinančiai realistiškos, o pati istorija persmelkta pasakiškumu – pradedant veikėjų vardais, baigiant jų mirtimis, ji tokia aiškiai juodai balta, su tipine blogosios pamotės figūra, bekiaušiu ir bestuburiu tėvo asmeniu, veikiau vaškine marionete, nei kad žmogumi, nelaiminga meile, tačiau visuotinai žinomu geros pabaigos pažadu. Ir visgi, E.Carey žvelgia taip giliai, o veikėjus formuoja tokius gyvus, tokius išsikirtinius, tokius ryškius, kad nė vienas šalutinis nenusileidžia pagrindinei – retai kada šitaip pasiseka. Net jei kraštutinumuose, jei veikia pilnu pajėgumu, o beskaitydamas išjauti kiekvieną puslapį, kiekvieną figūrą – net vaškinę. Ir nė akimirkos, nė pastraipos nepagalvoji, kad neįdomu. Tai – vienas tų magiškų atvejų, kada knygoje visko lygiai tiek, kiek turi būti: tamsos, makabriškumo, juodo humoro, kuris tikrai ne visiems skaitytojams bus priimtinas, psichozės ir obsesyvumo, skausmo ir grožio – netipiško, bet vis tiek.

Vaikystėje turėjau Madame Tussaud parodos katalogą – jame ir Bradas Pittas šypsojos, ir princesė Diana, tačiau buvo ir juodasis skyrius – jame Marato mirtis, nupjautos nusikaltėlių, politikų galvos. Nei supratau kas tie žmonės (na, apart Pitto ir Dianos, ne po akmeniu buvau auginta, laba diena), nei žinojau Madame Tussaud istoriją, bet juodieji puslapiai, kuriuose buvo pačios Madame darbai, buvo nučiupinėti mažosios visko, kas makabriška, gerbėjos pirščiukų. Skaitydama „Mažę“ jaučiau, kaip visos iki šiol atmintyje likusios galvos apipinamos žodžiais ir istorijomis, kaip galvos įgauna kūnus ir jausmus, vardus ir balsus, todėl tikriausiai negaliu būti iki galo objektyvi. Tačiau tai – neabejotinai viena geriausių šių metų knygų.
Profile Image for Ingrid.
1,208 reviews50 followers
January 24, 2020
In this book fact and fiction were melted together. I didn't mind and thoroughly enjoyed the story. Beautiful drawings.
Profile Image for Diane S ☔.
4,733 reviews14.1k followers
November 26, 2018
I am at 40% and for now am putting it down. Will come back to it after the holidays as it seems to take more concentration than I have available right now.
Profile Image for Cindy Burnett (Thoughts from a Page).
565 reviews979 followers
November 16, 2019
Little is the tale of Madame Tussaud (born Anne Marie Grosholtz) from her young life as an orphan through her time at Versailles with King Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette and then ultimately as the individual who established the wax museum she is still known for today. Carey includes clever drawings of various items throughout the book relating to the subject at hand, some fascinating and others at times a bit macabre, and each drawing adds depth to the book. My favorite part of the book is the information and descriptions relating to Revolutionary Paris and her life at Versailles. Little is a fabulous book about an ordinary girl who leaves an extraordinary legacy.

For more reviews, check out my Instagram account, https://www.instagram.com/thoughtsfro....
Profile Image for JimZ.
1,018 reviews459 followers
August 28, 2020
2.4 stars which rounds down to a 2.

This novel, which according to the author was 15 years in the making, started off as interesting, intriguing, and promising and then over the course of 200 pages became tedious — the rules which govern my life do not allow me to abandon a book (unless the author starts writing word salad) so I had to read the next 200 pages, which I felt was even more tedious. because by then I was in a bad mood! 🙁 I should note that this author was on my radar screen 20 years ago when he wrote his first work of adult fiction, Observatory Mansions. Back then I graded my books using the A-F system and I gave that book an A++. So if anything I came into this book with a positive bias.

What was “interesting, intriguing, and promising” at the outset of this book? The writing was good. Well, first of all the writing. This story is told by the main protagonist of the book, Marie Grosholtz, aka Madame Tussaud, although a number of people call her “Little” in this story. We are told at the book’s outset that the book was written by her, and that the drawings, which are numerous in the novel, are done by her. They are pen and ink and it is somewhat unusual for a book to employ this technique. Anyway, I found it to be a “nice touch” to the novel, cleverly done, amplifying the narrative throughout. The story line was interesting. It reminded me somewhat of Cinderella…this poor girl was essentially indentured to an eccentric doctor, Doctor Curtius and then later on to both him and a widow of a tailor he later joined up with. The tailors’ widow reminded me of the wicked stepmother in Cinderella.

I think the problem for me with this novel was that it was too much. Over 400 pages. And a lot of it probably never happened…the author said “Though based on real events and real individuals, sometimes these people (Marie Grosholtz, Philip Curtius, for example) have left us vague, sometimes untrustworthy, histories, and so I have felt free to fill in some blanks.” So fine, write a pseudo-autobiography of Marie Tussaud, but where do you draw the line at the sheer volume of stuff you write to “fill in the blanks”? 100 pages? Probably too short, the reader will allow you to go on a bit longer than that. 200 pages? Getting close… 300 pages? Well OK but make that the outer limit. 433 pages? 🙁 You just have one unhappy reader on your hands Edward Carey.

But never fear, this reader is oftentimes an outlier and you have Margaret Atwood on the back cover on Twitter (never say an author tweet a review) saying this: "Don’t miss this eccentric charmer! Little, by Edward Carey, narrated by Madame Tussaud of waxwork fame, [on] her strange life and times, including the almost fatal French Revolution, a prime season for heads.”

• Edward Carey’s wife is an American novelist, Elizabeth McCracken. I read her first work of fiction, The Giant’s House, and finished it on June 27, 1998.
• I learned this from the LA Times book review below: The genesis of Carey’s novel occurred, effectively, two full decades ago. When the author was in his 20s, he worked at the flagship London location of Madame Tussauds on Marleybone Road. He went partly because he’d been unsettled by the place as a child, partly because he could not find more suitable work.

Reviews (well after reading these reviews, I must acknowledge I am truly an outlier):
a potpourri of review “snippets”: https://bookmarks.reviews/reviews/all...
Profile Image for Betsy Robinson.
Author 9 books1,033 followers
March 8, 2019
None of us had a large understanding of the tides of man; each knew only his little portion. For some it was hair, for others teeth; one concentrated on eyes, another on paint; one mixed the wax, another prepared the plaster. No one could see beyond his own individual station. Only together did we make the anatomy of a city in change; only together did we render things legible to all. (336)
I was wondering what kept author Edward Carey dedicated for the fifteen years it took to birth this remarkable and compulsively readable historical novel about the child who lost her mother during the eighteenth century, which loss set her on a bizarre trajectory to train to make wax models of human anatomy, become a servant to the young sister of the King of France, and ultimately, to become Madame Tussaud of wax museum fame. But the above paragraph toward the end of the book answered my question.

Anne Marie Grosholtz, renamed Little because of her diminutive size, is the embodiment of resilience. Lacking company, she senses the life in objects and rooms; she begins to understand that these living pieces form a kind of body. Given a cupboard to live in, she finds its life and benefits in the tight space. And so she survives abuse after abuse and finally the French Revolution.

And when the Revolution comes, the severed heads of the royals and their minions are cast in wax for posterity. And when a terrified philosopher pleads to cover up the reproductions, claiming they will cause more violence, Marie’s master Curtius refuses, explaining, “They are only what has happened outside in the city. . . We observe it. . . That is truth. Wax never lies—not like those oil portraits in gilt frames I have seen all about the palace. Wax was ever the most honest of substances.�� “Cover it up,” begs the philosopher. “But that would be lying,” counters Curtius. (342)”

And that is the raison d’etre of this can’t-put-down novel with wonderful illustrations by the author—done as if they are Marie’s own. It is an observation and chronical of a brutal history that belongs to human beings. Except defying Curtius’s insistence that he and the others in the wax business at the Monkey House (the name of their popular museum) do their work as unemotional observers—the so-called journalists of their day—this book represents the full emotional story of Marie, who sees both the goodness and horror in everyone—allowing the reader to as well.
Profile Image for lucky little cat.
546 reviews103 followers
March 4, 2019
Ooh, it's just stuffed with stuff. Wax heads of the famous and infamous, scruffy orphans, hide-and-seek in Versailles,
Young Marie Tussaud with her doll Marta, Edward Carey's loving "fake Jacques-Louis David portrait." Marie's covering her face to preserve a little privacy, but also to hide how much she looks like Carey.

plasterer's craft, Enlightenment philosophers, inky fingerprints, peg dolls and mannikins, creaky attic ateliers, secret friendships, one wistful boy, Empress Josephine and her pug, etc. There is much to love in this arcana-stuffed first-person account of Madame Tussaud's life. Edward Carey clearly delights in the historical period, and recreates a bustling Revolution-era Paris faithfully, complete with intermingled classes scuffling in muddy thoroughfares and a bankrupt monkey circus.

But the very best thing about the novel is the narrative voice, Marie Tussaud's. Young Marie is self-reliant and inquisitive. Older Marie is centered, certain, and resilient. She's good company at any age.

By his own account, Carey had stalled on this novel, had written the first draft fifteen years ago but never found the right voice. Then he got tenure at UT Austin, pulled the manuscript out of a drawer, and nailed the voice. Damn, give that man tenure every year XD
Profile Image for cypt.
513 reviews646 followers
December 5, 2021
Elzė sakė, kad nepatiks, ir nepatiko, ot tai ačiū, Elze!!! 👹

Nesu didelė gerbėja istorinių romanų, o ypač "kaip x tapo X" romanų, nebent tai Knausgårdo išsidirbinėjimai arba Palekaitės mistifikacijos. Šita madame Tussaud "gyvenimo" "istorija" (gal labiau įsivaizdavimas) įkrito kažkur tarp Petro imperatorės (irgi savo gyvenimo istoriją nuo A iki Z pasakoja senyva moteris prie mirties, guli nepajudėdama savo kambary, ateina gydytojas ir ją varto nuo šono ant šono) ir Undinėlės mirties (senovė, kūrėja/s, karaliaus dvaras, iškrypus monarchija...), tik su mažiau melodramų ir be queershaming (ir už tiek ačiū), tačiau vis tiek tokia bandanti susikrauti kapitalą iš O Buvo Taip.

1. Iliustracijos ir apipavidalinimas, šriftas!!!
2. Vaško liejimo procesų aprašymai, kaip reikia įspausti plaukelius, padaryti porėtą odą, etc etc.
3. Kaip vaškas tampa istorijos rašymo būdu, ir dar tokiu neakademiniu, "iš apačios": mergaitė ir jos šeimininkas, paskui ir kiti versliuko dalyviai lieja nusikaltėlius, žymius žmones, demonstruoja juos; pasikeitus poliniam klimatui, keičiasi demonstravimo pobūdis - ar tai išaukštinimas, ar pajuoka. Skaitydama galvojau apie Tokarczuk Bėgūnus: juk ten irgi nesiliaujantis žmogaus kūno konservavimas, saugojimas, preparavimas susijęs su noru atsiminti ir išlaikyti.
4. Jacques-Louis Davide'o personažas. Jo "nutapytas" Tussaud portretas irgi fainas, bet nu niekaip neneša iki Davide'o, autoriui dar reik pasitobulinti. Užtat visai priminė Balthusą, tik kad moteris apsirengus. Va tas portretas:

1. Bespalvis laikmečio kontekstas. Paryžiaus karaliaus rūmai su Antuanete niekuo nesiskiria nuo danų karaliaus rūmų iš "Undinėlės" arba net nuo Britanijos rūmų iš "Crown" :D Bandyta paįdominti: pvz kaip Liudvikas XVI laisvu nuo darbo metu dirba kalvėj arba vaikšto stogais. Bet nuolat turėdavau sau priminti, kad čia Prancūzija, nes vietom man tie dvariškiai nesiskyrė nuo bet kokio prasto kostiuminio serialo, nesvarbu kokioj šaly vykstančio. Jau net Belgravija arba Kalkutos detektyvas geriau ir nepalyginti spalvingiau.

2. Kaip mergaitė, gimusi žemiausiam sluoksnyje ir jame likusi, neraštinga, neišsilavinusi, tampa šio istorinio romano pasakotoja ir byloja sudėtingais, sudėtiniais sakiniais? Ar ne geriau, jei būtų pasakojusi nukirsta Robespjero galva?

3. Meilės istorija, kartais nueinanti į tokius dialogus (čia Mari kalba su Edmonu, savo tikrąja gyvenimo meile):
- Kad ir tave.
- Mane?
- Nesi bet kas.
- Na... rodos, ne.
- Nežinau, - pasakiau, - kaip atrodai po drabužiais. Šio stalčiaus dar neištraukiau. Nusivilk marškinius, noriu tave nupiešti.
- Tau negalima!
- Ak, liaukis, nesimuistyk. Mačiau daugybę kūnų. Berne. Mačiau, kaip atrodo kūnų vidus. Edmonai, sutik, leisk man į tave pažvelgti.
- Ką darai?
- Rengiu tave.
- O ne!
- Nuvilksiu tau marškinius.
- Oi! Maldauju!
- Apie kūnus žinau viską. Daktaras Kurcijus mane išmokė.
- Varge!
- Taip! Žiūrėk, atsegu tau sagas!
- Matau. Jaučiu.
- Išmoksiu tave, Edmonai Piko. Kiekvieną tavo kūno dalį.
- Mama! Bet kada gali įeiti mama.
- Ji išėjo.
- Gali grįžti.
- Dar turime laiko, pats žinai.
- Man šalta.
- Tai pasislink arčiau ugnies.
- Kaip tu į mane žiūri!
- Kad geriau tave matyčiau.
- Kaip spoksai!
- Ar galiu tave paliesti?
- Man reikia eiti.
- Matau tavo liekną kūną, šonkaulius, tavyje tvinksinčią gyvybę! Edmonai žmogaus kūne! Tu žavingas!
- Mari! Mari! Liaukis!
- Noriu žiūrėti. Patrauk rankas, Edmonai, noriu žiūrėti!
- Negaliu! Negaliu! Neištversiu tokio tavo žvilgsnio. (p. 126-127)

4. Feikinė info istoriniame romane. "Undinėlės mirtyje" bent jau remiamasi tikru tarpu Anderseno dienoraščiuose, o čia tiesiog freestylinama neaišku kokiu tikslu. Kaip rašo kiti komentatoriai, nei Marie Grosholtz buvo našlaitė, nei Davide tapė jos portretą.

Negaliu! Negaliu! Man reikia eiti.
Profile Image for Judith E.
545 reviews191 followers
April 28, 2019
This was a slow start for me because Maria Grosholtz (later evolving into Madame Tussaud) starts her trade by making wax replicas of diseased or removed body parts. It was quite grotesque and the characters and speech patterns were strange and baffling. But after that, I found this to be an extremely addicting read.

Maria starts her trade while an orphan, horribly treated by her guardians. She hones her skills and absorbs the training in order to garner praise. Her life’s journey takes her through the violent French Revolution and her path crosses many famous (good and bad) participants of that event.

Kudos to the author for a unique telling that completely encompasses the reader with a feeling of macabre. It is bizarre, gruesome and strange with little sketches of heads and facial parts, sometimes humorous, sometimes not, thrown in. The author has created a grim setting of mid-1700s Paris and the difficult, violent life in which Maria finds strength.
Profile Image for Elze Kmitaite.
123 reviews165 followers
December 30, 2021

Puiki knyga! Pradedant apipavidalinimu ir forma: labai gražus ir skoningas viršelis, įdomus šriftas ir, svarbiausia, žiauriai gražios, šiurpios iliustracijos; baigiant turiniu ir stiliumi. Knygoje laisvai atpasakojama daugeliui žinomos vaško muziejaus įkurėjos Madame Tussaud gyvenimo istorija (pats autorius rašo, kad ši istorija netiksli, prigražinta ir prikurta jo paties, bet manęs tas visiškai neerzina, nes nu kokia gi biografija išvis yra „visiškai“ tiksli? Juolab kad čia tiesiog šiaip romanas, į nieką daugiau neapeliuojantis. Šitą rašau todėl, kad esu mačius nemažai Goodreads atsiliepim��, neva tai kaip galima laisvai remtis žmogaus gyvenimu ir nepateikti visų tikslių faktų.)

Pasirodo, kad Madam Tussaud (Mari) gyvenimas buvo nepaprastai sudėtingas, makabriškas ir įdomus. Anksti netekusi tėvų pateko į tarnystę pas vaškadirbį, ten išmoko lieti vaškines figūras. Knygoje labai svarbi atsikartojanti gyvenimo – mirties, judrumo – nejudrumo opozicija. Vaškinės figūros ir siūtos lėlės tampa priešprieša žmogiškumui (ta elementariąja biologine prasme), tačiau įdomiausia, kai būtent jos, sustingusios laike ir erdvėj pasidaro tam tikra egzistencinė siekiamybė: per visą knygą jaučiamas pačios Mari troškimas sustoti ir nebejudėti, nes judėjimas jai visada yra prievartinė veikla, jos judėjimas yra sąlygojamas kitų paliepimo, o stagnacija tampa jos pasirinkimu ir siekiamybe. Galiausiai ji pati yra (ar siekia būti) vaškinė, o ne „mėsinė“. Man labai patinka šita apversta verčių sistema, kuri šiam lengvai skaitomam romanui suteikia cinkelį.

Man labai patiko ir knygos humoras. Čia jis grynai toks „mano“ – juodas, medinis. Pagrindinė veikėja labai dvejopa, viena vertus, klusni, naivoka, net kvailoka, tačiau kartu žiauriai šmaikšti ir be galo intelektuali, sakyčiau, ne XVIII a moteris, o XXI. Norisi tikėti, kad taip yra autoriaus padaryta sąmoningai, pabrėžiant, kad tai yra fikcija, kad čia nėra apeliuojama į tikrovės atspindėjimą, o kaip tik žaidžiama su ja (tas labai fainai atsispindi ir pvz., skyrių pradžiose, kur yra pateikiami trumpi skyriaus aprašymai, imituojant XVIII amžiaus literatūrą, kuri čia pat yra sušiuolaikinama).

Romane daug visko: meilės ir mirties, troškimo gyventi ir veikti, baisingos frustracijos ir smulkių laimės užuominų, karališkojo dvaro vaizdų, šlykščių dvokiančių skersgatvių, nukirstų galvų ir virstančių žarnų. Į pabaigą (nuo 400 iki 500 psl) prailgo, lyg išsikvėpė. Bet overall labai fainas, įdomus romanas!
Profile Image for Anete.
427 reviews63 followers
August 1, 2021
Interesants vēsturisks romāns, kas balstīts uz realiem faktiem par Marijas Tiso jeb Madam Tiso dzīvi, šeit aprakstīi 18. gs. ikdienas dzīves sīkumi, Franču revolūcija, un kas tās laikā notika Parīzē, vaska figūru izgatavošanas process un daudzi diezgan netīkami personāži. Man līdz šim šķita, ka Tiso kundze ir kāda mītiska un izdomāta persona, var teikt zīmols.
Profile Image for Dan.
453 reviews4 followers
November 19, 2018
Edward Carey’s Little is a pleasure to read: a wonderful story, well told, carefully structured, and beautifully illustrated with Carey’s own drawings. Set in eighteenth century Switzerland, France, and England, Little introduces us to a cast of characters, each distinctive and dramatic, who develop and mature over almost ninety years. At Little’s center, there’s “Little”— Anne Marie Grosholtz—herself. Born to a striving servant, indentured to Doctor Curtius, a failed physician and wax modeler of body parts and later heads, burdened by her stature, her inheritance of her mother’s large nose, in the Roman style” and her father’s ”strong chin that pointed a little upward”, Little’s only intimate connection with the world in her early years were her mother and Marta, her beloved peg doll. Little follows Little through the deaths of her parents, her move to France with Doctor Curtius, her mastery of Doctor Curtius’ wax sculpture artistry, the French Revolution, a love affair, a marriage, and her eventual move to England.

Novels as engaging as this, and especially novels firmly rooted in earlier times, should age well. 2018–with Little, Andrew Miller’s Now We Shall Be Entirely Free, and Stella Tillyard’s The Great Level—has graced readers with three excellent historical novels. Too many fine novels, and especially historical novels recede rapidly from our collective literary consciousness: I hope and expect that Edward Carey’s Little will be remembered and thoroughly enjoyed many years in the future.

I would like to thank my friends Will and Ace respectively for generously recommending and sharing Little with m
Profile Image for fatma.
899 reviews558 followers
December 31, 2020
This is easily my favourite novel of 2020. I loved it so, so much.

Edward Carey's Little is the kind of novel that just ticks every single one of my boxes. To start, the writing is brilliant: it so effortlessly evokes a sense of historicity, bringing you into the late 1700s through its tone, its diction, its rhythm. But more than that, Carey's writing is able to sharply capture the voice of its protagonist, Marie--and what a big-hearted and sympathetic character she is. Part of the brilliance of this novel is that you get to watch Marie grow up, following her pretty much from the moment she is born (she narrates her own birth, which is a trope I love) to when she is an old woman. And so you get to see Marie develop alongside the characters she finds herself attached to, and watch how the push and pull of those attachments alternately leave Marie alienated or supported. I cared so deeply about Marie: she is such a beautifully earnest character; she is smart and kind and gentle, and she wants so bad to prove her mettle, to be close to those she cares about. And yet so many times we see her marginalized, sent away, ignored, unacknowledged.

Scaffolding Marie's character development is the most compelling and engrossing plot; it is not fast-paced so much as it is well-paced, taking us to various milieux, with plenty of twists and turns along the way to keep the narrative fresh and dynamic. And again, the writing is just gorgeous. Alternately whimsical, vivid, and affecting, giving you just enough character moments to be moving but always holding back at the right moments so as not to stray into sentimentality. It's the perfect balancing act. (I was pretty much crying for the entirety of the last 20 pages.)

Little is, quite simply, the best story I read this year. I can give it no compliment higher than that.
Profile Image for Ace.
433 reviews23 followers
November 14, 2018
I am not the kind of person that wants to go look at celebrity or famous figures at a waxworks museum so I wouldn’t normally have chosen this book out of the pile of historical fiction to read right now. However, a good friend here on GR recently read it and loved it so I thought I would trust his rare 5 star rating and give it a try. I also know nothing about the French revolution and much less about Madam Tussaud. This is a long and educational book for the likes of me and whilst I did look up a couple of things of historical reference and a few foreign words, I just trusted that the author knew what they were on about and went with the flow. Also worth noting is probably the length of this book which took me a long while to get through for different reasons, the news has been taking up a bit of my time and also preparing for the next leg of our journey.

I did always want to go back to the book and only read one other which is a testament to the skill of the storytelling and the story itself.

Little, is the name and description of Anne Marie Grosholtz, she is a tiny creature with a lust for knowledge and creativity that keeps her going and going through this odd story full of odd characters. You know there’s going to be a happy ending I guess, but she certainly had to work hard for her money and her name.
Profile Image for Doug.
1,980 reviews701 followers
December 1, 2018
4.5, rounded down.

This is a lively, entertaining and informative look at the life of Madame Tussaud, of the waxworks fame, and for the most part I really enjoyed it. The beginning I found slow, and there were certain sections which were a bit plodding and could have used some judicious editing. And although it apparently was based on both Madame's own memoirs and exhaustive research into records of the period, Carey fictionalizes the story quite a bit (according to a quick read of her Wikipedia page), including dispatching her mother years before that occurred (and in an entirely bogus manner), and there are some other annoying factual errors (e.g., he has her narrating the final chapter when she purportedly was 89 - and she actually died at age 88). Nevertheless, the alternately charming and grotesque illustrations (by the author himself) add a great deal to this Dickensian tale - and that author himself makes a surprising cameo in the final pages.
Profile Image for Ilana.
604 reviews163 followers
September 15, 2019
The fact it took me over a month to read has nothing to do with how much i enjoyed this book. In fact my eye-reading life hasn’t been very active lately and I’ve been amazed to find I held the flow of the story and characters in my mind between one reading session and the next, despite having no memory whatsoever usually. But Edward Carey’s storytelling is quirky and especially appealing to me so that it just “sticks” somehow. There’s a very high probability the extra “sticky” factor comes in part from the visual appeal of his drawings, which are liberally mixed into the book as being Little’s very good pencil drawings. For an artist and someone who enjoys graphic novels, this extra touch makes me especially fond of Edward Carey’s books. This is probably the least official biographical book you’re ever likely to find on Madame Tussaud, about which there is little on record anyway, which gave Carey plenty of leeway for an interesting and creative fiction which is a lot of fun to read despite the horribly violent times it describes.

When I read the acknowledgments, I concluded I’d given this book its due time for digestion and appreciation after all, as it took Carey fifteen years to complete. His longest project ever inspired by an early job working of course at Madame Tussaud’s in London!

I discovered this author through his Iremonger trilogy, a Dickensian gothic extravaganza which gave me immense pleasure and which I highly recommend—eagerly awaiting Carey’s next project.
Profile Image for Cheryl.
939 reviews
October 30, 2018
Abandoned at 50%. Historical fiction based on the life of Madame Tussaud. I didn't like the writing style: it was all "telling", not "showing". Although there were a ton of quirky characters, I didn't feel like I got to know any of them. They just felt flat and lifeless. Even Marie ("Little") seemed very distant, and so I couldn't really sympathize with her. I did enjoy the illustrations in the book.
Profile Image for Julie.
1,948 reviews38 followers
December 24, 2021
I have 3 hours and 20 minutes to go. I have been listening for 10 hours and 55 minutes, and it feels like forever. At first, I was held in the thrall of the unusual and perhaps macabre as other have suggested, however the sense I have of being suffocated is unrelenting and the feeling of unease is truly uncomfortable, I need to let go.

Here are the passages that jumped out at me:

Regarding the various internal organs: "The healthy bits, gathered up, do they really all fit inside a person?" [...] "We are quite crammed up to the brim, aren't we sir?"

About the Pont Neuf Bridge in Paris: "This crowded bridge is Paris' vital organ. The very heart of the city. It pumps not blood but people. Pumps them all around the city, throws them off the bridge with more energy than they had when they came on to it."

This passage makes me recoil just a bit, I have a sense in the pit of my stomach that this just isn't 'right': "I kept there in the darkness, watching Edmond bother out tangles, up to his arm, it seemed to me, in his mother's head growth. Here was all the widow's softness, kept sealed up during the day but pulled out and gently managed by the son in the evening. He tended to his mother's gentleness before gathering up all that affection and plaiting it into great hair intestines, which he coiled and pinned neatly around her head before tucking them out of sight beneath a large black cloth cap."
Profile Image for Christine Bonheure.
579 reviews225 followers
January 15, 2021
Een historische roman vol verrassingen, dat is het minste wat je van dit boek kan zeggen. Het schetst het sprookjesachtige levensverhaal van Madame Tussaud – die van de wassen beelden – maar dan in de meest grimmige betekenis. Wat je leest is bijna niet te geloven, maar toch blijkt veel op waar gebeurde feiten te zijn gebaseerd. Je krijgt een bijzonder tijdsbeeld van Frankrijk zo vlak voor, tijdens en na de Franse revolutie. Je bevindt je te midden van stank, vuiligheid, luizen, ratten, onhygiënische en weinig fraaie levensomstandigheden, zeker voor vrouwen. Om te komen tot ‘liberté, égalité, fraternité’ werden veel onschuldigen een kopje kleiner gemaakt met de toen ultramoderne guillotine. Zowel de hoofden van de misdadigers, rolmodellen als de koninklijke hoogheden en Napoleon werden in de was gezet. Je leest er alles over door de ogen van Marie, klein van gestalte, maar groot qua intelligentie, doorzettingsvermogen en lef. Behoorlijk veel namedropping.
Profile Image for MaryannC. Fiendish Book freak.
487 reviews108 followers
November 3, 2018
4.5 Stars

I absolutely loved this! This was my first Edward Carey read and I was enthralled with it!
I loved Little's character, her narration as she grows up to become the famous historical figure known as Madame Tussaud. This was a little macabre, but so enjoyable and well written, also loved the sketches throughout which it added to the visualization of this story. Recommended
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