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The Smallest Man

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‘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.’

A compelling story perfect for fans of The Doll Factory, The Illumination of Ursula Flight and The Familiars.

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 heartwarming 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.

384 pages, Hardcover

First published February 6, 2020

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About the author

Frances Quinn

2 books58 followers
Welcome to my Goodreads author page! I'm the author of The Smallest Man, my debut novel, which tells the story of Nat Davy, a 'court dwarf' at the time of Charles I and the English Civil War, and That Bonesetter Woman, set around a century later, in Georgian London, and telling the story of Endurance Proudfoot and her sister Lucinda, two women determined to make their way in very different worlds.
I love hearing from and talking to readers, so if there's anything you'd like to know about me, my writing or my books, do get in touch via Twitter (@franquinn), Instagram (@franquinn21) or my author page on Facebook, Author Frances Quinn

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Displaying 1 - 30 of 271 reviews
May 27, 2020
The Smallest Man is a fascinating story of an unusual man during the 17th-century reign of King Charles I of England. The religious conflict in Europe seemed focused on England and Charles was the King who contributed to England’s descent into civil war. The resulting Interregnum years when Parliament ruled under Oliver Cromwell and the restoration of Charles II, is one of the most tumultuous periods in English history. The fictional narrative plays on the backdrop of King Charles I, his young Queen Henrietta Maria and many characters of the royal court. The precarious nature of life and how it was typically exploited against the poor was wonderfully captured and it reminded me of the beginning of Pillars of the Earth.

The challenge for Frances Quinn was to decide whether the novel focused on the historical correctness of the events that defined the period or provide scope for the freedom to write an entertaining and creative story around a specific character. Frances Quinn’s decision to creatively use Jeffery Hudson as the protagonist to tell a story of the period with freedom from historical accuracy was a good call. To that end, she changed the name of the Queen’s Dwarf to Nathanial (Nat) Davy and gave him a voice and purpose that is totally imaginary.

Queen Henrietta Maria with Sir Jeffrey Hudson (1633) by Anthony van Dyck
At only eighteen inches tall when he was a child and young man, Nat was sold by his father to the Duke of Buckingham. The duke in return offered Nat as a curiosity, a ‘rarity of nature’, to the Queen. The distress it caused Nat’s mother to part with her son in that manner was heart-breaking and yet the unpleasant practice of selling children was all part of daily life. Nat was delivered to the Queen inside a pie to facilitate a surprise, which was actually true. It soon became apparent to Nat that the Queen was in a similar position, being wagered through marriage and living away from her family in an unfriendly environment.
“Queen Henrietta Maria was still only a girl, barely five years older than I was. The youngest daughter of the King of France, she’d been sent away from her home and family to marry a man she’d never met, who didn’t like her much, and she had the Duke of Buckingham stirring the pot to make sure it stayed that way.”
The pressure the Queen received from all sides was very well highlighted and it enabled a strong bond between Henrietta and Nat - two similar souls unsure of their destiny. As part of the many characters resident at the royal court, Nat made an unfortunate enemy in Charles Crofts, which provides speculation and the weave of fiction with imaginatively ordered fact. Close friendships were developed with Jeremiah as an older mentor, and Henry and Arabella of similar age, which became the central theme to the second half of the novel. As feelings and vulnerabilities grew, Nat often wondered what chance a dwarf could have of finding love with a normal beautiful woman. Perhaps to see Arabella marry Henry would at least keep them close. There are a lot of uncertainties, misunderstandings and close encounters that tantalisingly evade the three friends.

The uncommitted love story played a little too long for me and the twists that kept relationships colliding with a confusion of true intentions dominated a lot of the story in the second half of the book. The rush of events towards the end felt abrupt and cut too short. I would still recommend reading this book as there are lots of interesting aspects.

This was also a buddy read with Beata and I think we both felt the story dropped off in the second half of the novel with regards our expectations. I would like to thank Simon & Schuster UK and NetGalley for providing me with a free ARC copy in return for an honest review.
Profile Image for Beata.
714 reviews1,088 followers
May 25, 2020
An interesting debut which takes the reader to the 17th century England and whose central character is based on a historic figure Sir Jeffrey Hudson who was immortalised by van Dyke in a portrait together with the Queen of England.
The main character, who is the narrator, Nat Davy, is a dwarf, born to a poor family, loved by his mother and brother, not by his father alas, who literally sells him to the Duke of Buckingham. This is the turning point for Nat whose fate changes for better it seems. The novel concentrates on three stages of Nat's life and I found Part 1 especially interesting as through the hardships he undegoes his strong personality shines through. Nat finds support in another character who is also physicaly challenged. He achieves a lot and remains faithful to the Queen who values his opinions and acts of bravery. Parts 2 and 3 were not that engaging for me probably due to the love plot as I hardly ever appreciate romance in HF. Besides, the more the story progressed, the less interest the author took in historical background, concentrating on Nat's little adventures. The author succeeds in depictiong the fate of those who were 'different' and providing the details of what life was like for them in the 17th century.
A novel which reads well and will be appreciated by readers looking for some history and some romance.
This book was another buddy read with Peter whose terrific review I highly recommend. Thanks, Peter!
*A big thank-you to Frances Quinn, Simon & Schuster UK and NetGalley for arc in exchange for my honest review.*
Profile Image for Avani ✨.
1,543 reviews312 followers
February 3, 2022
The Smallest Man by Frances Quinn, a very unique and compelling historical fiction set in 1625 London when the shift was happening due to the death of their King.

This story is inspired by true stories of that times and I must say I am in awe with the atmospheric writing style of the author in this book. This one being author's debut novel, I truly enjoyed reading it.

Although the book starts a bit slow and it took me a while to get into this phase, I truly enjoyed once the story picked up it's pace. I loved Nat, the Queen's dwarf, her friend and a very courageous and brave man.

The book is all about friendship, finding one's destiny, love, belonging and family, family feuds, enemies and much more. The writing style took me into this era very easily. Liked the story between Nat & Henrietta.
Profile Image for Cathy.
1,163 reviews211 followers
December 10, 2020
Although inspired by the true story of Jeffrey Hudson, court dwarf to Queen Henrietta Maria, in her author’s note Frances Quinn emphasises that The Smallest Man is ‘a novel, not a fictionalized biography’ and that Nat Davy is a ‘figment of her imagination’. Oh, but what a wonderful figment of the imagination he is!

I defy anyone not to be moved by young Nat’s gradual realisation that he’s not like other boys, his attempts to make himself taller, or his desire to prove he can be just as useful on the family farm as his brother Sam. The revelation that, to certain members of his family, his only value is as a ‘freak’ is heart-breaking to witness.

Although in hindsight a lucky break, initially Nat’s time at Court sees him viewed merely as a plaything, just one more item of curiosity in a trophy cabinet, and a pawn in the power play between the Duke of Buckingham, Queen Henrietta Maria and King Charles. However, Nat’s keen intelligence means he’s soon alert to the politics, hypocrisy and hidden agenda that proliferate in the Royal Court. I loved seeing his empathy for the lonely and isolated Queen and his attempts to help counter those trying to weaken her influence on the King. And I’m sure I can’t be the only reader who was cheering Nat on as he takes steps, with the help of his friend Jeremiah, to face down the bullies who torment him.

Those who love to immerse themselves in the detail of historical events will particularly enjoy part two of the book in which Nat witnesses first-hand the ravages of the civil war and accompanies the Queen in her desperate attempts to obtain men and arms for the King’s cause. Along the way, Nat discovers that he is valued as a person, not just a plaything, and he is even able to use his stature to advantage.

In the final part of the book, as the reign of King Charles comes to its bloodthirsty end, the bonds of friendship are tested but emerge strengthened and the author gives Nat the possibility of a life he had always dismissed as a hopeless dream.

For me, the best historical fiction combines authentic period detail, a compelling story and characters who leap off the page, letting you experience life in earlier times through their eyes. The Smallest Man delivered on all those fronts as far as I was concerned. It’s a story about appreciating the loneliness of those regarded as ‘different’, treasuring the gift of friendship and looking beneath what is on the surface. Lessons that stand the test of time I think.
Profile Image for Ellery Adams.
Author 59 books4,028 followers
January 29, 2021
Wonderful historical fiction. In many ways, Nat had the same courage and conviction as Bilbo Baggins. I rooted for him from page 1 and loved this book's overall message about being comfortable in one's own skin.
Profile Image for Finitha Jose.
294 reviews47 followers
December 4, 2020
If you search for the stories of Tudor queens, you may find an entire library. Sadly, the popularity of the Stuarts is nowhere near and needless to say this book took me by surprise. Poor old Charles is often ignored, so who cares about his French queen who has come to love England as her own home? Well, I don't think anyone can forget the name Henrietta Maria after this or Nat Davy for that matter.
A bird's eye view of the Caroline age through the eyes of the Queen's dwarf, that is what this story offers. Based on the life of Jeffrey Hudson, Frances Quinn creates a memorable tale filled with political intrigues, suspense and a touch of romance. She does take a fair bit of creative licence when it comes to Nat's story and I completely loved it. At least in this fictional world, Nat deserves a happy ending.
Sold by his father for eleven shillings, Nat finds a new home with the young queen who shares a similar fate in her political marriage with King Charles. Since his size limits his access to complex political scenarios, we don't get to know the king that much. Instead, Quinn focuses on Nat's life in the palace, the way he manoeuvres the insults directed against him, turning his disadvantage as a means to create a celebrated story.
From the very beginning we are pulled into this fast paced story growing with Nat, feeling his pain. My only complaint is regarding the abrupt ending which doesn't give us much details on the restoration. Still I am happy to know about Nat Davy. He must be the smallest man, but his courage and wisdom put many a tall man to shame.
Profile Image for Fiction Addition Angela.
314 reviews37 followers
January 3, 2021
I'm always searching for stories about Tudor Kings and Tudor queens, I have lots of books because I love this timeframe in history. Unfortunately I have only read a couple of books on the Stuarts, and so I have to say this book was a nice surprise. King Charles is often ignored, and with reason I believe.

At the time of listening to this, I realised I was one who didn't care about his French queen. I thought she was always an outsider, as I knew their marriage had started off like that.

But now I know she loved England and fully embraced England, Scotland and Ireland as much as her own country. I don't think I'll forget the name Henrietta Maria after this or Nat Davy... and I'm sure if you love history you'll be googling a little to find out some more. Because I was listening to this, I found myself wanting to google the story as it was fascinating.

This is the story of Nat Davy and is narrated by him and his role in life as the Queen's dwarf,

The narration is superb and I would look out for this narrator again, I truly felt the pace and the tone was wonderful and forget I was listening to a story and felt like I was listening to a conversation. Simply Brilliant.

This story is based on the true life of Jeffrey Hudson, Frances Quinn creates an interesting tale filled with intrigue, murder, suspense and a touch of romance. She does take a fair bit of creative licence when it comes to Nat's story and I completely loved it.

At least in this fictional world, Nat deserves a happy ending. You need to google ti find out his real ending, not so happy.

Sold by his father for eleven shillings, Nat finds a new home with the young queen who shares a similar fate in her political marriage with King Charles.

Since his size limits his access to complex political scenarios, we don't get to know the king that much. Instead, Quinn focuses on the life of Nat's in the palace and as they travel, the way he swallows the insults directed against him, turning his disadvantage as a means to create a happy story.

From the very beginning we are pulled into this fast paced story growing with Nat, feeling his pain. My only complaint is regarding the abrupt ending which doesn't give information on the restoration.
I've realised that Stuart history is just as interesting as Tudor - I had just forgotten the significance of it all and its fascinating.

Nat was a great character and I felt myself throughout the book imagining how his life must have been in the Royal households and when in hiding against the patriots.

A must listen for anyone wanting to dip their toes into their first Stuart historical fiction.

Thank you in advance for the copy.
Profile Image for Hazel Prior.
Author 5 books606 followers
July 5, 2021
I'm a fan of historical fiction anyway but there's something so engaging about this story, which is quite unlike anything I've read before. Frances Quinn is a brilliant storyteller and makes us care deeply for the (very small) hero and his friends. And there's plenty of adventure without - as some hist fic does - getting horribly gruesome, which is a big plus as far as I'm concerned! Highly recommended!
Profile Image for Karen.
865 reviews476 followers
December 4, 2020
Spanning the decades and told by Nat, it begins with 10 year old Nathanial Davy and his family attending a fair in the Rutland town of Oakham. He was used to being stared at and regarded as an oddity because of his unusually small size. But he thought that he would grow however it was that night at the fair that he discovered that he never would.

Nat’s family was poor and his father was a bully. Nat was no use to him so his fate would have been to end up being part of a freak show. Luckily for Nat, an extra shilling in his father’s hand changed his fortune and instead he was sold to the Duke of Buckingham to be given as a gift to the new Queen. To be dressed in beautiful clothes, to entertain her and to be by her side.

As a child Nat was enchanting. His loneliness in a strange London world – he especially missed his mother and his brother Sam, matched that of Queen Henrietta Maria; she wasn’t much older than Nat at only 15 years old and away from her family in France having been married off to the much older King Charles. Although from such different backgrounds, the two found they had much in common and Nat’s gift for empathy with the Queen earned him her loyalty and friendship.

Nat Davy is inspired by a real life character – that of Jeffrey Hudson, court dwarf to the Queen. Nat’s story may be a fictional one but it’s a wonderfully written story of courage, devotion and bravery with a smattering of stubbornness.

I love history but there was a lot of the detail about this period of the English civil war, with the conflict and battles between Parliament and the King that I didn’t know and I actually learnt so much. This may be fiction but the story was rich with detail and characters and events were so vividly described that I was completely entranced.

There was so much to like about this book – Nat of course was a standout character. As he grew in age (but sadly not in size) he realised that some things that other people took for granted were to be denied him, like love. At times my heart broke for him, whether he was standing up to the bullies who tormented him or longing for what was missing in his life. There was a romantic angle to the story which, if I’m honest did frustrate me a little, but it in no way detracted from my enjoyment.

There were some fabulous characters surrounding him too – Jeremiah, the giant of a man who took Nat under his wing, Nat’s friend Henry Jermyn whose dry humour with Nat I particularly enjoyed and even the Queen whose transition from that of a lonely young girl to a young woman capable of organising an army and doing what she could to help her (rather foolish) husband was superbly portrayed.

I loved The Smallest Man, I was so completely drawn in to the wonderful storytelling and Nat’s determination to be accepted for what he was and what he was capable of rather than how he looked. It is without doubt one of my favourite books of the year.
Profile Image for Louise Fein.
Author 3 books551 followers
August 2, 2020
Great memorable books are made by great, memorable characters. Frances Quinn’s Nat Davy is such a character. The Smallest Man is a beautiful, heartwarming tale, weaving history and fiction intricately and seamlessly. I was routing for Nat from the first page. Quinn shows us how a big heart and strength of character can lead anyone, perceived disability or not, to achieve great things, and that kindness and compassion are the most important of human qualities. I loved this book.
Profile Image for Jo.
3,253 reviews117 followers
June 23, 2021
As a ten year old Nat is sold to the Duke of Buckingham who presents him to Queen Henrietta Maria as a gift. His adventures take him from the court to the front lines of the Civil War. I don't know where to begin with how much I loved this novel. Nat is a wonderful character, full of heart and spirit with a heavy side of determination. It was interesting to see his story set against the backdrop of the war between King and Parliament. Definitely a debut worth picking up if you enjoy historical fiction.
Profile Image for Demelda Penkitty.
540 reviews11 followers
July 4, 2021
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.

‘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.’

The story of Nathaniel Davey, a fictional character inspired by a real person - Jeffrey Hudson, known as England's Smallest Man or the Queen's Dwarf. It's an entertaining journey through life in rural England and at the court of King Charles I, capturing all the colour and pomp surrounding the King and Queen. Presented as a gift to Queen Henrietta Maria, Nat starts out as something of a toy or pet, but becomes her close and trusted confidant. We see the tumultuous events of the Civil War through Nat's eyes.

I loved this book. Nat jumped off the page right from the beginning, he feels totally alive and I'm sure he will stay with me for some time. Through his eyes the author manages to give a really fresh perspective on the English civil war and fascinating insights into Royal life in the 17th century. Great story, beautifully executed. Highly recommended!
Profile Image for Joanna Park.
492 reviews60 followers
January 2, 2021
The Smallest Man is a very absorbing, gripping piece of historical fiction set in a fascinating period of English history.

Firstly Nat Davy, the books narrator, is a wonderful character that I grew very fond of during the story. It was heart warming to see his brave attempts to try and be like the other boys his age, though heartbreaking to see the constant set back he suffers. I often wished I could reach into the book and give him a hug or stand up for him in some way. His bravery and the way he stood up for the queen was wonderful to read about and ensured that I continued thinking about him long after I’d finished reading.

This book is set in a turbulent time in English history which I didn’t know much about before reading this. It was fascinating to learn more about the build up to the Civil war and to see events from an insider point of view. I liked getting a tour of some of the famous buildings whilst the story unfolded and learning more about what it was like living in them.

Overall I really enjoyed this gripping read which I flew through in a few days. The author’s vivid descriptions make it easy to imagine things as they unfold so that I often felt like I was there actually watching everything unfold. This made me feel closer to the characters and helped ensure that I kept reading as I cared about what happened to them. I’ll be recommending this book to everyone and can’t wait to read more from this author in the future.

Huge thanks to Anne Cater for inviting me onto the blog tour and to Jess Barrett from Simon and Schuster for my copy of this book.
Profile Image for Mandy.
709 reviews13 followers
April 13, 2022
Downloaded from Borrowbox audio, this is a story based on the real life of Jeffrey Hudson who became a court dwarf of the English queen Henrietta Maria of France. Much of this story is fiction but there are many facts too. I learned much about this time in the 1600's and the character, Nat in the book, leads a very colourful life . This made a good audio with a great narrator. Interesting and illuminating.
Profile Image for Kylie.
244 reviews3 followers
February 27, 2021
I really enjoyed the first half to two-thirds of this book. Great time period to explore from this perspective. I did find the last section was rushed and didn't have the same emotional connection to Nat, as the first part. Easy to read which I wasn't expecting when I read it was set in 1645.
865 reviews21 followers
October 22, 2020
Being only 4'10" myself, (on a good day, with the wind behind me, if you squint), I was very interested in a book about the smallest man. I have to say it's hard to believe this is a debut novel. Ms Quinn presents us with a highly accomplished book. She creates the atmosphere of 1625 wonderfully and I had no problem in seeing everything she wrote about in my mind's eye. Her attention to detail was exquisite and it's impossible to decide whether I preferred her elegant descriptions of places or her detailed characterisations. The story winds its way around you and soon holds you in a firm embrace, making you feel cared for a loved. The whole story is just wonderful with historical facts slipped in amongst romantic fiction and enough baddies for you to despise. Alex Wingfield provides a stellar narration to elevate this novel head and shoulders above the rest, (if you'll excuse the pun). The Smallest Man is a book with the biggest heart and will stay firmly lodged in mine for some time to come. A huge success.
Profile Image for Feli.
306 reviews24 followers
August 2, 2021
Nat Davy is the smallest man England's. He's also the Queen's Dwarf. Born to a poor family with a father who wants to get rid of his useless son, we accompony Nat through the years, see him at court, war, as a refugee and finally back home.

This story is lovely. It's heartbreaking and emotional to see Nat fighting to show that he 'is more on the inside', to see his dreams being shattered again and again but he just won't give up. Frances Quinn's writing is great and made me read this book on a bunch of days.

I wasn't too sure about this Goldsboro Prem1er choice at first but I gave it a try since this was the reason I subscribed to this service in the first place: too read more diverse, in different genres and explore new worlds and themes. And I was positively surprised by this book. Although a bit lengthy later on, this is why it's 'only' 4 stars, it definitely was worth the read and I am still thinking about this book weeks after I finished it.

Recommend to everyone who's into historical fiction or wants to try something different.
Profile Image for Gianna Lorandi.
248 reviews19 followers
September 19, 2020
Nat is a dwarf in 17th England. Born to a poor family and sold to a Duke by his father, he soon finds himself in the middle of court life.
I loved Nat's character, he's got such a strength of character! I also liked the way the author portrayed the life of a small man in the 17th. My only criticism would be that the language and choice of words didn't really work with the rest of the book, could have been a bit more polished and less tv series-like.
All in all a lovely debut and would recommend to anyone who likes historical fiction.
Thank you NatGalley for the advanced copy.
47 reviews
October 15, 2021
it was a story told clearly and chronologically and set in a key time in English History. I liked the central character, but would probably have preferred it if it had been about the real person the story was based on. It was an easy read, with a very traditional story arc and no surprises along the way. Its good to read a story about someone with disabilities, but I am not sure that I found it convincing. I am not sure if this is really aimed at children?
Profile Image for Emma Hardy.
903 reviews43 followers
May 18, 2021
This is perfection on a page... Or nearly 400 of them.
Profile Image for Alyssia Cooke.
1,023 reviews33 followers
September 22, 2020
This is one of those books that really caught me to begin with, and I flew through it at a rate of knots, but I have to say the first two sections are far more compelling than the conclusion which felt a little rushed and underdone. I suspect that this is partly because whilst the first section builds up the characters and the time period, and the second section really builds up the politics and unrest of the time, the first section was more based on Nat's adventures and a romance that seemed whirlwind, even though quite a few pages were dedicated to it. I'm never that fond of romance in my novel's, I don't mind it as a backdrop, but the moment it becomes the main focus of the story my attention begins to wane and drift away.

What I did find to be exceptionally well done, was how Quinn draws her characters, their relationships and the political upheaval of the time period. It's not an area of history I know a huge amount amount, other than the obvious fact that the King gets beheaded and Cromwell takes charge with puritanical vigour and makes himself even more unpopular than the King was. Quinn is adept at building the time period up around you though, so you never feel lost or overwhelmed by events but fall into it naturally. Likewise, her portrayal of Nat, the Queen and the friends and enemies he makes along the way are nothing short of fantastic. The relationship between Nat and the Queen is particularly poignant, as they have both been sold into servitude of a sort and are both equally and desperately unhappy with their lot at the beginning of the novel.

And for a historical fiction, there's a lot here that is pertinent to current affairs in how we treat those who are different to us, and how having strength of heart and mind can sometimes trump the perfect body. I felt Nat's differences were well depicted; it would be difficult living with his tiny statute in today's world, but it was a very different world in the seventeenth century. I really enjoyed reading his thoughts as he struggles to be seen as anything more than the Queen's pet doll, how his relationships build and grow throughout the novel and how sometimes even the strangest of friends make the most steadfast companions.

So a solid four stars here that could have been five if my attention hadn't drifted in the latter half of the novel. I really didn't care much about the romantic elements of the novel in honesty, instead finding myself far more engaged by the historical commentary and the depictions of the political upheaval and unrest. When many of those were dropped to the wayside in favour of a 'she'll never love me' romantic entanglement, it felt as though several key events - for example, the beheading of King Charles and the Queen's reaction - were rushed over in haste.

Thank you to NetGalley and to the publishers for my review copy of this title.
Profile Image for Owen Townend.
Author 4 books5 followers
September 26, 2021
A pleasing underdog story with relevant historical detail. I say 'relevant' because it's not exactly accurate, by the author's own testament. While Queen Henrietta Maria did in fact have a dwarf gifted to her prior to the Civil War, his name was not Nat Davy and his life played out in a much less literary order and ended in tragedy. Quinn being a savvy storyteller, she took the more striking experiences of Sir Jeffrey Hudson and used them to create an alternative history of 'The Smallest Man in England'.

Davy's narration is consistent in tone and feels authentic to one man's perspective of the Civil War as it was playing out. Though he becomes a confidante to the Queen, Davy doesn't spend much time with King Charles I and a good thing too as our protagonist doesn't think much of him. Davy never meets Oliver Cromwell either, which is just as well as he probably wouldn't have survived the encounter.

As for the fictional side characters, it was nice to see Davy form a better family from his friends and allies. His brother Sam remains with him during the course of the story, a sweet but easily-led young man, while Davy's loving mother and greedy father do not feature much beyond the first quarter of the book. Davy discovers a more doting father in the tall Jeremiah, a second brother in the lovable cad Henry and a love interest in Arabella. That being said, the passages where Davy wilfully ignores the possibility that she might love him back despite so much evidence to the contrary, often frustrated me.

This semi-fictionalised account of a real person in history (see the Van Dyck oil painting) was quite lovely though perhaps lacking in the more thrilling details of the Civil War. Also I did wonder why Quinn never reached out to the dwarfism community to confirm that Davy is a sensitive depiction. Nevertheless I found The Smallest Man a delightfully fresh perspective on a contentious time in British History. I recommend it to readers who like a romantic and life-affirming element to their historical fiction.
Profile Image for Jen (shitbookreviews.com).
72 reviews10 followers
January 3, 2021
First book of 2021: The Smallest Man. And what a little delight this was.

Right, ready for the TL;DR? Go.

✨ Set in 17th-century ye olde England with kings, queens, war on horses and all that jazz
✨ Based on a real story but fictional so make-believe with a pinch of actuality which is nice
✨ Your dad is a prick but that’s fairly standard for those times I guess

Your main man is Nat Davy. A 10-year old Dwarf born into a poor family who’s convinced a circus faerie can help him grow. That wee trip gave dick bag father some ideas about what to do with his ‘useless’ son and before you know it, cutie pie Nat is being sold off.

Now, this can go one of two ways: you get sold into a hellish nightmare or alright life. For Nat, it was the latter as he found himself being thrust into his new court role as the Queen’s Dwarf. His only responsibility was to keep her entertained, but all he wanted was to be seen as a human.

The Queen had similar desires. As a French Catholic in a very anti-Catholic Britain, she was very much seen as the enemy of the people, yet found a trusted ally and BFF 4 lyf in Nat.

For the next two decades, you experience life through Nat’s eyes and if you don’t have a warm spot in your heart from him by the end, then we absolutely cannot be pals.

This is a wonderfully cute book with an unlikely, unsung hero who never wanted fame or attention. Whilst I’m not one for being those fanciful messages woven throughout, this is absolutely a story about acceptance, self-discovery and not letting the bastards grind you down. And, hell, I’m totally on board.

So why only 4 stars, Jen, you weirdo? You just sung its praises and then snatched away a point?
Firstly, you shouldn’t give a damn about what this random person thinks and secondly, I LOVED the beginning and just got a little lost towards the end. That’s it. No hidden agendas.

You should absolutely give it a shot if historical fiction is your jam.
Profile Image for Janet.
281 reviews
March 4, 2021

This is a historical fiction novel which will tug at your heart strings, have you on the edge of your seat and warm your heart as you proceed through it.

The story is set in the 17th century with a new King, Charles, on the throne and a new Queen, 15 year old Henrietta Maria who had been Princess of France.

The story is told from the point of view of Nat, ‘The Smallest Man’

Nathaniel Davy is 10 years old in 1625 at the beginning of the story.
He has a happy childhood although his family is very poor, growing up with his brother and sister in a small village called Oakham.

It is becoming clear Nat is not going to grow like his brother. Nat’s father realises he is not going to be any use on their land and sells him, against his wife’s wishes, to a Duke who is close to the King. Thankfully the Duke offered more than the fair freak show he was initially going to sell Nat to.

Nat finds himself being dressed ‘baked’ in a pie and given to the Queen as a gift from the king as a toy. A doll to entertain her along with her dogs and monkey.

However over time, the Queen and Nat become close and he becomes her confidante. Over time Nat begins to enjoy his new life and thinks of home less and less.

Sadly the days of living the life of luxury are numbered for Nat as war is on the cards.

We follow Nat through the highs and lows of life, and wonder if his undying love for Arabella could ever be reciprocated. Could anyone ever love someone like him?

Inspired by a true story of Jeffrey Hudson who was court dwarf to Queen Henrietta Maria.

Thank you to NetGalley and Simon & Schuster for a review copy of this wonderful book.
Profile Image for Gerbrand.
299 reviews11 followers
March 15, 2021
“The year is 1625. King James is dead and England has a new king and queen: Charles, the serious, awkward second son forced onto the throne by the death of his more popular brother, and Henrietta Maria, the fifteen-year-old devoutly Catholic Princess of France.”

Hun huwelijk stort Engeland in een burgeroorlog. Dit is de achtergrond waartegen The smallest man zich afspeelt. Henrietta Maria krijgt in het begin van het verhaal als cadeau een dwerg (tegenwoordig zeggen we kleine mensen). Zijn naam is Jeffrey Hudson. Van Henrietta Maria en Jeffrey Hudson is in 1633 een prachtig schilderij gemaakt door Antoon van Dyck. Ze zijn dan respectievelijk ongeveer 24 en 15 jaar. Te bewonderen in de National Gallery of Art: https://www.nga.gov/collection/art-ob...

Frances Quinn heeft er echter voor gekozen om van hem een fictief karakter te maken: Nat Davy (van Jeffrey Hudson is overigens een biografie, Nick Page’s Lord Minimus). Omdat de biografie van Jeffrey Hudson vooral bestaat uit flarden van zijn leven en dus niet alles bekend is heeft ze ervoor gekozen om een fictief karakter te creëren. Het gaf haar alle vrijheid om een ingenieus plot te ontwikkelen. Het aardige is dat sommige gebeurtenissen waarvan je denkt dat ze verzonnen zijn dan weer wel echt zijn gebeurd! Dat kun je nalezen op de Wikipedia-pagina over Sir Jeffrey Hudson.

Een bijzonder goed verhaal. Een knap debuut. En extra leuk als je zoals ik helemaal niets van die geschiedenis weet. Alleen de naam Cromwell zei me iets.
Profile Image for Tim Ewins.
Author 3 books12 followers
September 24, 2020
A beautiful story of strength, hope, and what it really means to be different in an unaccepting world. If Quinn doesn’t win a series of awards for this book, there is something seriously wrong with the system.

I looked forward to reading about Nat Davy all day, and then at night, when I had a chance to read, I read well past my bedtime and regretted it in the mornings. Easily my favourite book of the year (and I read an advance copy towards the end of 2020).

It's so easy to read, and it feels like you know each character straight away!
Profile Image for Thebooktrail.
1,566 reviews282 followers
January 3, 2021
the smallest man

Visit the locations in the novel The Smallest Man

A novel to place you in the English Royal Court

I had never heard of the man this book is about but I can honestly say that his story was remarkable and I have since gone on to read a bit more about him. The main in question was Jeffery Hudson.

Jeffery was the court dwarf to Queen Henrietta Maria. The author does say that this is a novel and not a fictionalized biography’ and that Nat Davy is a ‘figment of her imagination’. Nevertheless, this is quite the story and quite a figment of the imagination!

I became quickly invested by Nat Davy and felt sad how, just because of his size, was ridiculed and bullied. He goes to court and is viewed as an object of fun as he has been his whole life. Howeever, things soon change and he uses his skills and wit to really find out about how the court works, who the main players of court are and uses this information to his advantage. Despite his own isolation, he is aware of that of others and I really began to like him more here. He was ignored and made fun of, but he was more aware of anything than the most astute observers of the time.

He becomes stronger and starts to become quite clever about his situation and the politics of the time. I was cheering him on as this little man suddenly became one of the biggest characters in terms of development, courage and bravery.

As the story of Nat Davey continues, there’s plenty of historical detail to enjoy. There’s the civil war and the end of the reign of King Charles for just two things which firmly make this a full and immersive novel
Profile Image for Alja.
143 reviews
January 4, 2023
Absolutely loved it! Could not have asked for a better start of the new (bookish) year.
Profile Image for Dustin.
126 reviews11 followers
March 5, 2021
It's often said that while historical events take place in the past, the themes and take-aways must be contemporary. The Smallest Man is evidence that a strong story does not need to reflect current trends. This fictional story, based on the real life of "court dwarf" Jeffrey Hudson during the English Civil War, luxuriates in an atmosphere that is at once tense with the tragedies of war and cozy with lovable characters who you will want to move in next door to. Throughout there's a pervading sense that those things that make us different really do make us special, an affirmation I needed to hear this week.
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