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The Autobiography of Mrs. Tom Thumb: A Novel…

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

by Melanie Benjamin

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5058820,141 (3.92)43
Title:The Autobiography of Mrs. Tom Thumb: A Novel
Authors:Melanie Benjamin
Info:Bantam (2012), Edition: Reprint, Paperback, 480 pages
Collections:Your library, 2012
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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Showing 1-5 of 89 (next | show all)
An interesting fictional account of the real-life "proportional midget," Lavinia Warren, who at her full adult height was only 32 inches tall. She married General Tom Thumb (35 inches tall) and the two of them worked for P. T. Barnum at his New York museum in the 1860's. Some of the events in the novel seemed so unreal that I had a hard time believing that they really happened. A little internet research supported the truth of most of the events. The couple gained international popularity, literally traveling around the world and giving shows to royalty and commoners alike, including a honeymoon visit to the White House as guests of Abraham Lincoln. Interesting personalities in the novel are not only Lavinia and Tom Thumb, but also P. T. Barnum. His relationship with Lavinia is a major focus of the novel. How much of that is real? I don’t know. Nonetheless, it was a good read. ( )
  TheresaCIncinnati | Aug 17, 2015 |
Somewhat interesting, but didn't care about Vinnie. She was too cold. I understand that life was difficult for her, but even Minnie found a way to love life. What did Vinnie love? ( )
  sraelling | Aug 12, 2015 |
Melanie Benjamin knocks another one out of the park with this fictional biography. Fascinating characters, great settings, meticulous research. ( )
  MarysGirl | Apr 29, 2015 |
Great historoical fiction. ( )
  INorris | Apr 20, 2015 |
In an author's note at the end of "The Autobiography of Mrs. Tom Thumb," author Melanie Benjamin writes, "I believe that every novel is either a mystery, a tragedy, or a love story -- some are all three -- and it became clear to me that this is a love story."

The key figures in the love story in her 2011 novel are not, as one might suppose, Lavinia Bump (or Vinnie Warren, as she called herself) and General Tom Thumb, one of the most famous couples in America during the Civil War and for a number of years afterward. No, the love of Vinnie's life, as Benjamin tells the story, is P.T. Barnum, the show business impresario of the period who discovered Tom Thumb and soon incorporated Vinnie, and later her even smaller sister, Minnie, into the act. Barnum, not the General, is the one man whom she can speak frankly with and pour her heart out to. Vinnie and her husband are never particularly close, except on the stage. He remains at heart ever a child, while she, despite her size, is very much a woman.

Tragedy haunts this story, as well, when Minnie dies in childbirth. Later Tom Thumb (Charles Stratton) dies, from shame in Benjamin's telling, after a hotel fire..

Yet the novel also offers mystery, the mystery being how much of this tale is true and how much is fiction. As she did in "Alice I Have Been," her novel about Alice Liddell (Lewis Carroll's inspiration for "Alice in Wonderland"), Benjamin fills in the blanks left by biographers. And there are always blanks, sometimes significant blanks.

Vinne really did write an autobiography, but it has little to say about her personal life, her motivations or her passions, and certainly nothing about her feelings for either her husband or Barnum. Benjamin has a gift for reading between the lines and inventing plausible explanations for what the biographers can tell us. ( )
  hardlyhardy | Mar 11, 2015 |
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Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
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.
Haiku summary
Was she too little?
Was the world itself too small / 
to contain her dreams? (LynnB)

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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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