The Smallest Man

Written by Frances Quinn
Review by 3 Charlotte Wightwick

Nat Davy is ten when he discovers that, not only is he smaller than the other boys in his village, but that he will always be different, and there’s nothing he can do about it. When his father sells him as a curiosity to the royal court, Nat longs only to return home. But then he strikes up a friendship with another youngster, lonely and overwhelmed by the hostile people surrounding her – the queen of England, Henrietta Maria – and his life opens up in ways he could never imagine.

Following the tumultuous years leading to the death of Charles I, The Smallest Man follows Nat as he travels with the queen, first to the Continent to raise support and money for the king, and then back into Civil War-torn England and the heart of danger. Through it all, can Nat find love and happiness, despite being the Smallest Man in England?

Nat was inspired by the life of the historical figure Jeffrey Hudson, who was court dwarf to Queen Henrietta Maria. However, the author is clear that her Nat is a fictional character, and indeed his story deviates from Hudson’s in a number of ways (Hudson, for example, was kidnapped by Barbary pirates and may have been sold into slavery, something which doesn’t feature in this novel!).

The author vividly depicts life in 17th-century England, from the small village of Nat’s childhood, through to the splendours of court and the horrors of a country at war. Nat is an entertaining and joyous narrator, whose determination and courage shine through the pages of the book. His love for his friends and family is the anchor which enables him to cling to hope and bravery, despite a backdrop of cruelty, war and treachery. It is a truly delightful novel. Highly recommended.