‘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.
France1746-1764 – 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.’