In her national best seller 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 19th 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.
©2011 Melanie Benjamin (P)2011 Random House
I think I was expecting this book to be a little bit weirder and maybe funnier, instead it is a very earnest, prim account of Mrs. Tom Thumb - at times an interesting snapshot of the era, but it left me wanting more.
I enjoyed this book very much. It kept me interested over two nights of listening. I found myself wishing that I could have met her, Mrs. Tom Thumb. She was a feminist when the word "feminist" was not in our vocabulary. She died before women had the right to vote, but I believe if she had lived in modern times she would have made a great, Congresswoman or President of the United States. This is one book that never disappoints. A book to be shared.
This historic novel is a believable narrative of what the interior life of Lavinia... Mrs. Tom Thumb might have been. The author suggests motives and sensibilities that are very believable and made me wish I could explore the original documents she obviously had explored and studied to create the dynamics of so many interesting relationships.
Her suggestion that her relationship with PT Barnum was among the most meaningful relationships of her life was well developed. More recently I had read a number of emotionally heavy stories... Constellation of Vital Phenomena and Cutting for Stone, so I was looking for something a little lighter and with some Americana in its tone so it definitely hit the spot. Well written, and satisfying, the Autobiography of Mrs. Tom Thumb is a good listen/read.
I must admit I have never considered the challenges faced by little people. Door knobs to high, clothing that does not fit, chairs they cannot get into, steps to high and this book was an eye opener to their plight. Melanie Benjamin does a good job making her listeners more aware of situations faced by others (I also listened to Alice I Have Been.) I have to thank her for making me a more considerate person. Kim Mai Guest presents Vinnie (Mrs. Thumb) with a sweetly irritating voice which eventually I suspected was done to remind the listener this story is about a person not 3 feet tall. I am not sure I would recommend this book but I am glad I listened.
The narrator did a great job of portraying the character's feelings and viewpoint.
I think it should have been fictionalized more. There were whole sections of the character's life that weren't all that interesting, but since the author was basing it on a real person, we were stuck with that. Maybe the book should have just been shorter and not tried to cover her whole life.
She did a very good job portraying emotions and views of the various characters
Mrs Tom Thumb is the one you get to know the most, as everything is seen through her eyes. She did have an amazing life.
The story moved along well. I was always interested in starting my car, and hearing what was next. Her other book about Alice (In Wonderland) is as good or even better.
The book was very disappointing. The characters are painfully simplistic and predictable. The premise is great...the execution horrible.
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