Sørine, a female dwarf from Denmark, is given as a gift to the Russian Tsar Peter the Great during his visit to Copenhagen. Sørine travels to St. Petersburg where she becomes a jester at the Tsar’s functions. She enjoys her new life and falls in love with the Tsar’s favorite dwarf, but disaster strikes in the shape of a priest who wants to “save” her.
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The brisk pace, flip tone, and confounding convictions of its seventeenth-century narrator make the novel, set in the distant past, feel contemporary … Fogtdal widens the potentially narrow first-person point of view … that allows her to relay and consider events she does not witness; this gives the novel a broader historical scope. Sørine’s internal life, however, her observations of behavior and investigations of belief, are the source of the novel’s zest and contemporary relevance … Just as I began to grow weary, wondering what might happen next to Sørine, she makes a bold move that leads the novel back to its compelling premise: people’s physical oddities are no match for the bizarre manifestations of their desire.
- The Believer
The Tsar’s Dwarf gets off to … a fine, rambunctious start. Peter H. Fogtdal … has talent – especially in his rendering of his narrator’s biting, contrarian, misanthropic voice. Fogtdal suggests how a vigorous, questioning, nihilistic mind can be a source of strength for a social pariah. And through Sørine, he casts a steady eye on the more general whys and hows of existence … The English translation by … Tiina Nunnally has a sharp, clean edge.
- The Seattle Times
Sørine’s smart and witty … [her] life is mesmerizing.
Fogtdal’s story is grotesque and sometimes brutal, but so richly imagined that it is captivating from the start … Part historical fiction, part nightmare, The Tsar’s Dwarf is a heart-wrenching tale of humanity.
- Elliott Bay Book Company, Book of the Week