Suzi Feay

Heads Will Roll

Little

By

Gallic Books 458pp £14.99 order from our bookshop

Novelists don’t give themselves much leeway when they seek to render in fiction the lives of well-known historical figures. For subjects who lived through cataclysmic events such as the French Revolution, this is fortunately no drawback. In the case of Edward Carey’s rendering of Madame Tussaud’s story, a macabre imagination must have been the only requirement to do it justice.

But it seems Tussaud herself was not averse to a little embroidering of the facts; at least, not all the claims she made are verifiable. This gives Carey some wiggle room. The novel purports to be a memoir in old age and is accompanied by apparatus appropriate to the Victorian period, from its prolix title page (‘The Extraordinary Life and Historic Adventures of a Servant called LITTLE’) to the chapter headings – ‘In which I am born’ and so forth. These very quickly turn strange: ‘Sounds of the outside falling in’, ‘On itching’, ‘In which heads are stolen’.

Sign Up to our newsletter

Receive free articles, highlights from the archive, news, details of prizes, and much more.

Follow Literary Review on Twitter

  • Last Tweets

    • 'One of the reasons for its longevity is that it has virtually nothing to say about science and technology at all,… ,
    • 'The characters in many of these stories are trapped in the obsessive present tense of their own thoughts; in the m… ,
    • 'Libraries, for much of their existence, have embodied in microcosm many of the characteristics of the totalitarian… ,
    • 'Moss and Cynthia buy several properties through which to launder their ill-gotten gains, take lots of drugs, have… ,
    • 'Never mind the imperial cult. This is the cult of Boris. What happened to Rome?' From the LR archive:… ,
    • Thirty-two years ago this month, we published Muriel Spark's short story, 'A Playhouse Called Remarkable' Read it… ,
    • Time travel, bicycles and white horses populate @WomackPhilip's roundup of children's books by @marcussedgwick,… ,