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The Wisdom of Bones

On sale

5th March 2020

Price: £8.99

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Selected: Paperback / ISBN-13: 9781472154408

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‘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.’


Rupert Thomson, author of Never Anyone But You
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.
THE SUNDAY TIMES, Nick Rennison’s Historical Fiction Choice.
The novel is mostly told in Percy's idiosyncratic voice . . . it is an entertaining tale of ambition and the urge to be different.
Rachel Hore, author of Last Letter Home
Kitty Aldridge's The Wisdom of Bones is a phantasmagoria of the exotic that brings history alive in exuberant prose.
Sunday Telegraph
If literary London can lionise Zadie Smith, it should pay Kitty Aldridge the same compliment. She has star quality
Salman Rushdie
Kitty Aldridge is a real discovery, a writer of precision, delicacy and wit.
Carol Ann Duffy, Daily Telegraph
One of the most talented prose writers I have read in years
Alba Arikha, author of Where to Find Me
A brilliant entwining of two stories: a Victorian showman and an infamous C.18th 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.