The Autobiography of Mrs. Tom Thumb

The Autobiography of Mrs. Tom Thumb

A Novel

Book - 2011
Average Rating:
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In her national bestseller Alice I Have Been , Melanie Benjamin imagined the life of the woman who inspired Alice in Wonderland . Now, in this jubilant new novel, Benjamin shines a dazzling spotlight on another fascinating female figure whose story has never fully been told: a woman who became a nineteenth century icon and inspiration--and whose most daunting limitation became her greatest strength.
 
"Never would I allow my size to define me. Instead, I would define it."
 
She was only two-foot eight-inches tall, but her legend reaches out to us more than a century later. As a child, Mercy Lavinia "Vinnie" Bump was encouraged to live a life hidden away from the public. Instead, she reached out to the immortal impresario P. T. Barnum, married the tiny superstar General Tom Thumb in the wedding of the century, and transformed into the world's most unexpected celebrity.

Here, in Vinnie's singular and spirited voice, is her amazing adventure--from a showboat "freak" revue where she endured jeering mobs to her fateful meeting with the two men who would change her life: P. T. Barnum and Charles Stratton, AKA Tom Thumb. Their wedding would captivate the nation, preempt coverage of the Civil War, and usher them into the White House and the company of presidents and queens. But Vinnie's fame would also endanger the person she prized most: her similarly-sized sister, Minnie, a gentle soul unable to escape the glare of Vinnie's spotlight.

A barnstorming novel of the Gilded Age, and of a woman's public triumphs and personal tragedies, The Autobiography of Mrs. Tom Thumb is the irresistible epic of a heroine who conquered the country with a heart as big as her dreams--and whose story will surely win over yours.
Publisher: New York : Delacorte Press, c2011.
Edition: 1st ed.
ISBN: 9780385344159
Characteristics: 424 p. ; 22 cm.

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c
CrochetCat374
May 22, 2016

I enjoyed this book, and I generally like Melanie Benjamin as an author, but it had a couple of weak points for me. This book captured the emotions of Lavinia Warren's experiences quite well, but I did have a rather hard time connecting to her character as Benjamin chose to portray her. I admired Lavinia's ambition and drive, but her constant dismissal of her husband as well as her thirst for fame made me sympathize with her less. The historical context of the book was also a little weak. Interspersed throughout the chapters were news stories and such from the era, which were all interesting to read but didn't really have anything to do with the actual events in the book.

Melanie Benjamin did do a good job of tracing Lavinia's life and what she experienced during her years as a performer. I found Lavinia's experiences thought-provoking; it was her size that opened up the opportunity for her to travel the world and have such a public lifestyle at a time in history when most women couldn't pursue that. Of course, she also faced rudeness, disrespect, and ignorance from the public. I would recommend this for anyone who enjoyed Water for Elephants.

k
kerry3095
Mar 28, 2014

This extremely well-written book provides a fascinating insight into life in the US in the late 1800s in much the same way as 'Water for Elephants'. The obsession with 'oddities' such as proportionate dwarves seems wrong somehow to our modern ways of thinking but I think most of us have a naturally curiosity for living beings who are 'out of the ordinary'. I would loved to have met Mr and Mrs Tom Thumb in person and certainly enjoyed reading about Vinnie's (imagined) challenges and inner thoughts.

w
wauchor
Aug 25, 2012

very enjoyable. It exposes a world that someone like me (6 foot 4 inches) can only imagine. So much of the history is also very enjoyable and educational, but still and always - fun

j
Juliekinz
Mar 30, 2012

original and interesting! love reading from different viewpoints at different times in history, and this definitely fit the bill. great book!

n
nopride
Feb 24, 2012

I loved this book! It had so much heart and new adventures around every bend.Very interesting characters

Nann Dec 07, 2011

A first-person novel about a real 'little person.' Lavinia
' Vinnie' Warren was born in 1841. She stopped growing at less than 3 feet (due to a pituitary disorder). She refused to be coddled, got an education, and taught school. But she wanted to see the world and persuaded her parents to let a 'cousin,' a show business promoter, let her join his retinue on a Mississippi showboat. He is unsavory. She is resourceful and is rescued by none other than P. T. Barnum. His grand publicity stunt is to marry her to his other 'little person,' Charles Stratton AKA Col. Tom Thumb. They are rock stars and travel the world, meet Queen Victoria and Abraham Lincoln, and live in high style. Their private life was not so pleasant. Charles was sheltered, spoiled, an alcoholic gambler. Vinnie is sometimes clueless but often insightful. She prevails against the odds. "I will not let my size define me," she said. "I will define it."

This is a great choice for book groups.

g
gvlee
Sep 09, 2011

An interesting story, well told. I never knew about these people until I read this book. Based on the lives of the real people.

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