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The Autobiography of Mrs. Tom Thumb: A Novel (original 2011; edition 2012)

by Melanie Benjamin

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435None24,403 (3.95)40
Member:julko
Title:The Autobiography of Mrs. Tom Thumb: A Novel
Authors:Melanie Benjamin
Info:Bantam (2012), Edition: Reprint, Paperback, 480 pages
Collections:Your library, 2012
Rating:****
Tags:2012/11, fiction, historical fiction, little people, circus, book club, sent to mom

Work details

The Autobiography of Mrs. Tom Thumb: A Novel by Melanie Benjamin (2011)

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    Water for Elephants by Sara Gruen (Alliebadger)
    Alliebadger: Both well-written stories about the performing life. Very different sides of it, and in very different time periods, but both well-written and exciting.
  2. 00
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Showing 1-5 of 80 (next | show all)
I adore Melanie Benjamin's creative writing! I first read her "Alice I Have Been" book,(about Alice in Wonderland)and now this. The way she creates a varied and colorful life for these fictional characters is too good to put down. I can't wait to read her next one! ( )
  obedah | Mar 26, 2014 |
Very well researched and written. I thoroughly enjoyed learning about the life of this little lady. I think my grandmother would have really liked this book as we used to spend time talking about P.T. Barnum, and Tom Thumb and Jumbo, and I know she would have wanted to learn more about Lavinia. ( )
  stevewhite71 | Mar 19, 2014 |
Enlightening, mesmerizing, and heart-breaking are words I would use to describe this book that follows the life of "Mrs. Tom Thumb"--or Lavina Warren Bump--who, despite her small stature makes a big impact. Lavina grows up in a quiet and sedate New England household and community, where she often surprises people by being a woman who is not afraid to speak her own mind--even though she never grows more than 3 feet tall. It is a visit by a "cousin" that starts the turn of events which eventually leads to her meeting P.T. Barnum, General Tom Thumb, and participating in the wedding of the century. Life on the road suits Lavina's adventurous spirit well, though she has to be on guard against dangers constantly. Her marriage to Tom Thumb--Charles Stratton--is depicted as a somewhat loveless match, as it is Barnum who Lavina really connects with. She finds Charles childlike and unable to converse with her on an intellectual level. She is also deathly afraid of pregnancy, as she fears that the baby will be too big for her diminutive body. Much of the book is about her relationship with her sister Minnie--who is also a little person, and who eventually follows Lavina into show business, despite being much more timid. Lavina feels like she must protect her younger sister, yet she cannot prevent the tragic events that follow.
It is so thought provoking to see a historical character brought to life, especially one with as extraordinary of a life as this one. Benjamin gives Lavina quite a multi-faceted personality, a strong woman who faces amazing challenges every day. Details such as the physical problems she faces when her hand is repeatedly squeezed by larger ones or the pain in her neck and back from constantly looking up add a lot of dimension to the story. Then there is the emotional landscape of her life, a woman who had to face down danger constantly, who learns that some men look upon her as an object of sexual desire, who longs for an intellectual partner and a life of safety for her sister--and who finds the first in P.T. Barnum, but discovers his friendship may bring an end to the second. It is such a fascinating story, I highly recommend it to readers who love history and character studies--but be aware that some parts of the story may be painful to read. ( )
  debs4jc | Mar 3, 2014 |
Benjamin chose a unique and interesting subject for this novel. She succeeded in bringing the characters, the era, and the particular atmosphere to life. ( )
  bookwoman247 | Feb 11, 2014 |
Great historical book, just not my pace. ( )
  ChachaCenteno | Feb 6, 2014 |
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Melanie Benjaminprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Guest, Kim MaiNarratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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I suppose it would be fashionable to admit to some reservations as I undertake to write the History of My Life.
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(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
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Book description
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.
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Mid-nineteenth-century little person Mercy Levinia Warren Bump comes of age in the antebellum south before being invited to join the P. T. Barnum circus, through which she meets her future husband, General Tom Thumb, and pursues limitless international opportunities.… (more)

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