Friday, September 9, 2016

Modern Folktale: Little Nothing by Marisa Silver // Book Review

Little Nothing
by Marisa Silver
Publication Date: September 13, 2016
Publisher: Blue Rider Press
Source: eARC Penguin's First To Read
Buy It: Amazon US / Book Depository

A stunning, provocative new novel from New York Times bestselling author Marisa Silver, Little Nothing is the story of Pavla, a child scorned for her physical deformity, whose passion and salvation lie in her otherworldly ability to transform herself and the world around her.
In an unnamed country at the beginning of the last century, a child called Pavla is born to peasant parents. Her arrival, fervently anticipated and conceived in part by gypsy tonics and archaic prescriptions, stuns her parents and brings outrage and disgust from her community. Pavla has been born a dwarf, beautiful in face, but as the years pass, she grows no further than the edge of her crib. When her parents turn to the treatments of a local doctor and freak sideshow proprietor, his terrifying cure opens the floodgates persecution for Pavla. Little Nothing unfolds across a lifetime of unimaginable, magical transformation in and out of human form, as this outcast woman is hunted down and incarcerated for her desires, her body broken and her identity stripped away until her soul is strong enough to transcend all physical bounds. Woven throughout is the journey of Danilo, the young man entranced by Pavla, obsessed only with protecting her. Part allegory about the shifting nature of being, part subversive fairy tale of love in all its uncanny guises, Little Nothing spans the beginning of a new century, the disintegration of ancient superstitions and the adoption of industry and invention. With a cast of remarkable characters, a wholly shocking and original story, and extraordinary, page-turning prose, Silver delivers a novel of sheer electricity.

My Thoughts

This might be, in my opinion, the forerunner adult novel of magical realism for 2016. Unfortunately, the synopsis for the book pretty much tells you almost all that happens. I like going into a book without knowing everything. I think that is what I liked most about this book is getting caught up in Pavla and Danilo's lives, wondering what will happen next to them. Little Nothng follows the life of Pavla and the boy who loves her Danilo. I don't want to delve too much into the characters because the novel is driven so much from their decisions and unfortunate events. So much happens to the characters and they transition to different versions of themselves in the novel that 350 pages reads like half of that. Not to mention there are a lot of blank pages for chapter breaks and drawings for different parts of the novel. Not that this is important - however, the illustrations to mark the different parts go with the dark and old folktale theme. That probably means nothing to you unless you see it yourself. The novel itself seems like an old folktale, like the ones it refers throughout the story - bizarre and magical. While Pavla's story arc was what the novel centered around it was Danilo's story that kept driving the novel. There is more to the story itself and the symbolism that will leave you thinking about it after you read it. Transcendence is a theme in the story - the love Danilo has for Pavla is continual. Pavla herself changes the most and with her physical transformation her mind does as well. Little Nothing also exemplifies that through pain and suffering one is able to transform to a better person than they were before. It helps shape what/who you become and adapt to the negative pressing circumstances that one finds themselves in.

The changes and timeline are choppy at moments that left me confused a bit. That might just be my desire for events to have an explanation so you should just go with the story as it is unfolded. After awhile I did that and I enjoyed the book more. I was eager to see what would happen to the characters. Marisa Silver is a great writer - she paints beautiful descriptions, didn't have to say plainly what happened or characters felt, but wrote well enough that you still understood, kept the story fluid and evolving to intrigue the reader. She is a good storyteller. The ending, to me, seemed to just end without the closure I wanted. This book is one I know my mind will wander to once in awhile which to me is the sign of a good book. The story of Pavla and Danilo will move you in some way. 

I can't decide whether to give it 3 or 4 stars. I'm not completely in love with the story, but it kept me on the edge of my seat and wanting more. It's so original. I got lost in the magical, but brutal characters and events. I think a lot of people who love magical realism will love this book. Marisa Silver wrote and mapped out Pavla and Danilo's lives beautifully. In folktales it seems that nothing is ever completely a 'happily ever after'. There is always some pain, transformation, and a new beginning of some sort. 

SPOILER? : Also, I think the unnamed country is most likely Czechoslovakia. Though I think it adds to the mystery and magic for it to be unnamed. It makes it a little more whimsical to not put a name on the location. Every time I would read a name or something historical or architectural I couldn't help but wonder where the story took place. I had to find out!


Thank you to the First To Read program by Penguin for allowing me to review Little Nothing!


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