”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.” — Ursula K. Le Guin
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.
Sarah Tolmie is a poet, speculative fiction writer, finalist for the Campbell Award and professor of English at the University of Waterloo. Her books of poetry, Trio in 2015 and The Art of Dying in 2018, both with McGill-Queen’s University Press, were shortlisted for the Pat Lowther Award and the Griffin Prize, respectively. Her fiction, published with Aqueduct Press, includes the novels The Little Animals (2019) and The Stone Boatmen (2014), the dual novella collection Two Travelers (2016), and the short fiction collection NoFood (2014).