Monday, May 13, 2019
Sarah Tolmie's The Little Animals
I'm pleased to announce the release of The Little Animals, in both print and e-book editions, by Sarah Tolmie. Antoni Van Leeuwenhoek, a quiet linen draper in Delft, has discovered a new world: the world of the little animals, or animalcules, that he sees through his simple microscopes. These tiny creatures are everywhere, even inside us. But who will believe him? Not his wife, not his neighbors, not his fellow merchants—only his friend Reinier De Graaf, a medical doctor. Then he meets an itinerant goose girl at the market who lives surrounded by tiny, invisible voices. Are these the animalcules also? Leeuwenhoek and the girl form a curious alliance, and gradually the lives of the little animals infiltrate everything around them: Leeuwenhoek’s cloth business, the art of his friend Johannes Vermeer, the nascent sex trade, and people’s religious certainties. But Leeuwenhoek also needs to cement his reputation as a natural philosopher, and for that he needs the Royal Society of London—a daunting challenge, indeed, for a Dutch draper who can't communicate in Latin.
Ursula K. Le Guin wrote of The Little Animals, “A vigorous, satisfying historical novel full of interesting and likable characters. To people who do truly unusual things, such as discover microscopic life, or paint Vermeer’s pictures, or hear what plague bacilli are saying, these things are just what they do. Sarah Tolmie’s novel catches this intersection of the everyday with the unearthly and holds it for us like a drop of pond water under the lens, vibrant with life and activity, fascinating in its strangeness and its familiarity.”
The novel received a starred review from Publishers Weekly: "Tolmie intricately weaves together the best of historical and weird fiction in this delicate tale of science and miracles. In 17th-century Delft, Holland, draper and scientist Antonie Leeuwenhoek is on the verge of a breakthrough discovery: that various substances are teeming with living “animalcules” that can only be seen by microscope. He is determined to prove his theories correct, though few people believe him. When he visits the Delft marketplace, he comes across a nameless, homeless goose-herding girl who says that she is followed by a cacophony of tiny voices. Leeuwenhoek strikes up an uneasy alliance with the girl, as he is certain the voices are those of the animalcules. Leeuwenhoek and the goose girl’s investigations into the worlds of the animalcules destabilize the realms of religion, art, and science. Tolmie balances careful characterization with rich historical detail, subtle humor, and energetic prose. Her central characters are suffused with color, and her prose captures the joys and uncertainties of life-changing discoveries. This delightful novel is not to be missed."
And Gary K. Wolfe reviewed it for Locus: "Historical fiction involving scientists has a natural affinity for SF readers, and for the most part Tolmie’s account of Leeuwenhoek’s methods of lens-grinding and his detailed observations of everything from the pond scum called honeydew to blood and eventually semen are fascinating...What Tolmie does, often brilliantly, is develop a theme of patterns that reflect in various ways the underlying sense of order that seems to be emerging into the world she describes—not only the patterns of Leeuwenhoek’s observations, but the manner in which these become popular fabric designs (Delft was apparently known for fabrics before it was known for ceramics, and Leeuwenhoek himself made a living as a draper), and even in such details as his daughter’s dollhouse, the design of looms, and the sheet music that a local madam uses for her spinet...That mysterious goose girl may be the only hint we get of material magic in The Little Animals, but there’s more magic in Tolmie’s tableaux of a place and time, which at once seems like a charming mannerist fairy tale and a provocative account of the birth of our own modern worldview."
Read a sample from the book.
You can purchase it directly from Aqueduct Press here: http://www.aqueductpress.com/index.php