He may be the smallest man in England.
But he has a big story to tell.
My name is Nat Davy. Perhaps you’ve heard of me? There was a time when people up and down the country 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 head of it, and this is my story.
I purchased this book as a Goldsboro Premier Books member, their choices are always impressive and serve to enable me to read books I may otherwise not have picked up. The Smallest Man is one such book, a charming and engrossing work of historical fiction, rich in detail with an important message at its heart.
Nat Davy’s story is not always a happy one, it is hard to get past the abandonment of being sold by his father at aged 10, a dwarf he was not perceived as ‘valuable’ to his father, he couldn’t earn his keep and essentially was a source of shame. Hence he was purchased by a duke and gifted to the queen. That aspect alone felt very enlightening, prior to this event Nat ventured into a circus tent expecting to see a fairy and being confronted by a female dwarf, who urged him to run, knowing his value to the circus folk, which was what spurred his father on to sell him. So by virtue of his size Nat was different, very different, a freak for the circus or a ‘pet’ a ‘doll’ or a ‘toy’ for the young French queen.
Moving past this, Nat lives an eventful life, happy and successful in his role as the queen’s dwarf, forging a role within the court and precious friendships along the way. His size is ever present and he is acutely aware of his limitations and should he ever forget there are many who are happy to remind him. However his determination is impressive and serves as an uplifiting aspect of this story.
That said I think this story is about survival and acceptance, recognising that how we look does not define us and what is inside is what really matters. Nat makes some lovely friendships, not least with the queen, although he knows his part to play there. Set in an eventful historic period, Nat is a fictional character but his circumstances in the royal household were not. Charles 1st is king and his French catholic queen Henrietta Marie aroused suspicion in protestant England and ultimately civil war. The book details this period well as Nat accompanied the queen across England and into France.
Queen Henrietta Marie had a court dwarf who was known to accompany her on some of her travels, althought the author stresses that not everything that happens to Nat really happened. So this is a grand piece of historical fiction, rich in detail and informative, with a magical character at it’s heart offering an eventful but essentially feel good story of a big life, lived by the smallest man.
About the Author
Frances Quinn grew up in London and read English at King’s College, Cambridge, realising too late that the cours would require more than lying around reading novels for three years. After snatching a degree from the jaws of laziness, she became a journalist, writing for magazines including Prima, Good Housekeeping, She, Woman’s Weekly and Ideal Home, and later branched out into copywriting, producing words for everything from waitrose pizza packaging to the Easyjet in-flight brochure.
She lives in Brighton, with her husband and two Tonkinese cats.