Carey...presents a creative epic that follows a poor orphan’s rise to become the famous Madame Tussaud. Born in 1761, and nicknamed 'Little' for her petite size, Marie Grosholtz becomes the unpaid apprentice of her late mother’s odd, nervous employer, Dr. Curtius...Their skills with wax attract attention, leading to their unusual museum and Marie’s invitation to tutor Princess Elisabeth at Versailles ... The oddball characters and gothic eccentricities evoke Tim Burton’s work but without any fantastical elements; the reality is sufficiently strange on its own ... The unique perspective, witty narrative voice, and clever illustrations make for an irresistible read.
Marie’s is a morbid tale, one that belongs—like James’s The Turn of the Screw—in the uncanny aisle of the horror supermarket. Carey has an eye for the ominous ... Each page leaves you off kilter. Each chapter a little breathless. For some readers of scary novels, Little may be a tad too whimsical. It is decidedly PG-rated. Although there is not a whole lot of white-knuckle terror happening, Marie’s life is nonetheless a grueling fight against adversity. And while it may leave die-hard horror fans wanting more frightening fare, the soft scare may be a good thing for those readers who prefer to read before bed and sleep without nightmares.
I admit, I’m growing tired of novels—even good ones—that turn historical figures into fictional characters ... I say this simply to underline how powerfully this book, an imagined life of Madame Tussaud, performed in winning me over ... This is a book so dense with events and so vibrant with delight in language that it’s difficult to do it justice. Suffice it to say that Carey, in the disarmingly engaging voice of his heroine, can make even a list of wax-working tools seem charmed.