To find a creature, part eel, part African Lion, who steps the tightrope, plays the viola, frightens the ladies and sings like a nightingale. This is my task. I must conjure, procure and invent, as a novelty is only novel once and no success succeeds as surely as failure fails.
London 1879 In a gloomy room on Islington’s backstreets, showman Percy Unusual George dreams of the miracle that will change his fortunes and that of his troupe of performing Remarkables. This waking dream will lead him to an infamous French dwarf, an exiled Polish king and a superstar of the Enlightenment… and alter the course of his life forever.
France 1746–1764 At the court of Lunéville, in the Alsace region of Lorraine, exiled Polish King Stanislas hosts grand parties for the French nobility and luminaries of the Enlightenment. While Voltaire dotes on his lover, Émilie du Châtelet, the Polish king presents his horrified queen with a gift of an infant dwarf from the Vosges Mountains. King Stanislas names the child Bébé, and watches indulgently as his protégé becomes the most notorious and celebrated dwarf in France, until an unexpected guest arrives and unforeseen tragedy follows.
Two ambitious men. One hundred years apart. Kitty Aldridge entwines their stories to powerful effect in this astonishingly imaginative and daring novel. The Wisdom of Bones is a high-wire performance: a hypnotic tale of desire and ambition, a quest for celebrity, and the human ache to be loved and remembered.
‘Time runs backwards and I see myself anew. Not a man but a child. Not English but French. Not here but there. And I am stranger than a sphinx.’
The novel is mostly told in Percy’s idiosyncratic voice… it is an entertaining tale of ambition and the urge to be different.
THE SUNDAY TIMES.
NICK RENNISON’S HISTORICAL FICTION CHOICE
Kitty Aldridge has a nimble and exotic imagination, and in “The Wisdom of Bones”, all her gifts are on display. Written in sentences of stark and evocative precision, and intertwining two poignant tales to startling effect, this novel has the fascination of a cabinet of curiosities magically brought to life. A regular marvel.
Kitty Aldridge’s ‘The Wisdom of Bones’ is a phantasmagoria of the exotic that brings history alive in exuberant prose.
A brilliant intertwining of two stories: a Victorian showman and an infamous 18th century French dwarf. Both of them yearn for love; in both cases it will be their downfall. A highly ambitious novel, written in an utterly original voice. ‘The Wisdom of Bones’ is unlike anything I’ve read in a long time: a real tour de force from a supremely talented writer.