ARC Reviews, Book Reviews, Fantasy, Literary Fiction

Book Review: Little Nothing by Marisa Silver



I have thought about this book often since finishing it a week ago.  This is going to be difficult to review, as I have very conflicted feelings over it…

LittleNothingAuthor:  Marisa Silver

Genre: Fantasy > Fairytale • Literary Fiction 

Version: ebook

Publisher: Blue Rider Press (September 13, 2016)

Source: NetGalley


Book Synopsis:

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:

I requested Little Nothing via NetGalley after it was confirmed that Marisa Silver would be attending the Books by the Banks, a book festival I am attending in October 2016.  After reading the synopsis, my interest was definitely piqued.  A peasant couple dabble with gypsy concoctions in order to conceive a child, but then bore a child with dwarfism that is misunderstood and rejected by their village?  Sign me up!

From the very beginning I was engrossed with Pavla’s story.  Pavla is born with the world against her, yet she overcomes everything that life throws at her.  I had never read a book with a dwarf or little person as the main character, so it was very refreshing.  Pavla’s journey is an uphill battle every step of the way.  I really struggled with some of the actions and decisions made by Pavla’s parents, Agáta and Vaclav.  Deep down, I do believe they cared for their daughter, however they were never able to see past her “physical limitations.”  They treated her dwarfism as a mistake that needed to be corrected.  Instead of trying to “fix” her, they should have seen her for the beautiful, clever, and resourceful girl that she was.   It was heartbreaking to watch Pavla endure everything her parents put her through.

And then things took a turn for the odd…

For the first 25% of this book, I honestly thought this was going to be a 5-star read for me.  I thought I knew where this was going, however I was completely side swiped at the 30% mark.  Honestly, I contemplated not finishing because I was caught so off guard, and not in a good way.  I thought this was going to be a fable about Pavla overcoming her physical differences as a dwarf and earning her place in the world, but things did not pan out that way.  I struggled with the decision to continue on, or to give up.  Ultimately I decided that I was not giving the book a fair shot if I did not finish, as I was judging it on my preconceived notions.  I decided to push on and hope for the best.

The remaining 75% of the book is about Danilo.  Surprisingly, I really enjoyed Danilo’s story.  Danilo’s portion of the story is, oddly enough, a beautiful love story where we see that a man will do anything for the “woman” he loves.  Which is interesting, as Pavla and Danilo do not spend ANY time together in the second half of the book… I loved his journey and how everything in the end came around full circle.

In the end, I am glad that I decided to continue on, as I did enjoy the rest of the book, however I am very conflicted.  Little Nothing felt like two different stories that I thoroughly enjoyed SEPERATLY, however did not think they flowed well together, making the book seem disjointed.  This book should have been split into two different stories.  The first 25%, then the remaining 75%.  I think my biggest hang up would have to be the transition from when Pavla is a dwarf, into her time in the freak show and beyond.  It all felt super abrupt, which is why I felt so caught off guard.  I think if I had been a little more prepared for this transition, I wouldn’t have struggled with it as much as I did.

This book was quite tragic and peculiar, which I typically gravitate towards, however I just could connect with this book as a whole.  I have thought about this book often since finishing it.  Do I recommend this book?   I feel like this book is going to appeal to a very specific audience.  With that being said, who might that audience be?  I honestly don’t know, but I know they are out there.  I think it is a definite possibility that I have missed the mark on the message that the author was trying to convey.  Since this is a newer release, I will be interested in seeing more reviews as they are posted to see whether or not I am alone in my conflicted feelings.

My Rating:

5-Star Rating System

*Thank you to Blue Rider Press via NetGalley for providing me a copy with Little Nothing in exchange for an honest review.

About the Author:

marisa-silverMarisa Silver is the author of the novel, Little Nothing, which will be published on September 13th, 2016Her other novels include Mary Coina New York Times Bestseller and winner of the Southern California Independent Booksellers Association Award for Fiction,  The God of War, which was a finalist for the Los Angeles Times Book Prize for fiction, and No Direction HomeHer first collection of short stories, Babe in Paradise was named a New York Times Notable Book of the Year and was a Los Angeles Times Best Book of the Year. When her second collection, Alone With You was published, The New York Times called her “one of California’s most celebrated contemporary writers.”  Silver made her fiction debut in The New Yorker when she was featured in that magazine’s first “Debut Fiction” issue. Winner of the O. Henry Prize, her fiction has been included in The Best American Short Stories, The O. Henry Prize Stories, as well as other anthologies.


23 thoughts on “Book Review: Little Nothing by Marisa Silver”

  1. Interesting review. It sounds like you are still a bit uncertain to your feelings of the book, and I can relate to that! I am definitely intrigued after reading your review, but I don’t know if I’ll pick it up. I haven’t read a book featuring someone with dwarfism before either– but that doesn’t mean someone should read it.
    I look forward to hearing about your experience at Books by the Banks! Perhaps Marisa Silver will speak to this book some?

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I am still very conflicted. Mainly because I loved the two stories SEPARATELY… The writing is very well done as well. I will definitely look into other works by this author! I can’t wait to see if she does a panel. I would love some more insight into this book!

      On a side note – I’ve tried to visit your site by clicking on your avatar, but your link does not work… Can you link to your site?

      Liked by 1 person

  2. I didn’t know anything about this book, but I do recognize the cover! Thanks for the review.
    I also haven’t read a book about a little person or a person with dwarfism before, so I can definitely get behind that because I like new reading experiences. But your criticism with the book would probably bother me to. So, the shift to Danilo’s story was abrupt? Did Pavla not get the focus she deserved for the rest of the novel? If her story is the one that opened the book, then it makes sense for her to remain an important character throughout, not to be overtaken by Danilo’s story.
    It does look like you enjoyed the book to some degree, and at least you now have another NetGalley review under your belt and have read the book for when/if you meet the author!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Ahhhh it is so hard to discuss this book without spoiling it. Basically, what caught me so off guard has to do with a transformation that Pavla undergoes that I was not anticipating. It is… unexpected. Then the novel shifts to Danilo, thus putting Pavla on the backburner, however Danilo’s story is centered around Pavla… It is definitely a “unique” book.

      Hahaha Yes! Another NetGalley review knocked out. I am now up to 11% feedback ratio, which is still sad, but better than 0% right? I am determined to start digging myself out of this hole if it is the last thing I do! November will be a completely NetGalley month.

      Thanks for stopping by Naz! I really appreciate it, especially since you are so busy this month 🙂


      1. When I say that Pavla undergoes a transformation, think magic realism & fairytales.

        *After I posted the first reply I was so vague (to avoid spoilers) that when I re-read it, it almost sounded like I was hinting that she was transitioning in regards to her sex… Just wanted it to be clear that is not what happens 😊


      2. I can relate to the NetGalley review ratio. I recently went on a requesting binge and wrecked my review ratio. Oops! You’ll catch it up again soon, Amanda. I’m sure.

        Liked by 1 person

  3. I really enjoy the cult classic film Freaks. The director had been a circus performer made this movie starring real circus “freaks.” He was pretty much run out of Hollywood for freaking audiences out, despite his success with Dracula the year before.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. It will be my first book festival 😊. Don’t worry, there will be a ridiculously long post and maybe live tweeting 😁

      It could have been soooooo good. The potential was there. Just needed to be two separate ideas instead of trying to combine them.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. I’ve read mixed reviews of Little Nothing. It’s a fascinating premise, but it does sound disjointed, and 25% in seems an odd place to flip the story to another character. I might skip this one.

    Liked by 1 person

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