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

by Melanie Benjamin

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingMentions
5669717,572 (3.92)46
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 (inactive)
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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    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.
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» See also 46 mentions

Showing 1-5 of 98 (next | show all)
Lavinia Warren was only 32 inches high, but had ambitions that were not limited by her diminutive size. She was a real person, more popularly known as Mrs General Tom Thumb – the wife of P T Barnum’s famous “oddity.” In the midst of Civil War, their wedding was front-page news. They were received by Queen Victoria, Abraham Lincoln, and heads of state around the world. They were befriended by the Astors, Vanderbilts and other high society families. They were the Brad and Angelina of their day, mobbed by crowds wherever they went, written about by reporters, the subjects of gossip and rumor, and victims of their own fame. All of this is true, but this book is a work of fiction.

Benjamin does a wonderful job of bringing Vinnie to life. The novel depicts a woman of great intelligence and drive. She is shown to be cunning, witty, talented and strong-willed. She is also vulnerable, frightened, angry, and cold, suppressing her feelings to protect herself as best she can. Her partnership with Barnum is wonderfully imagined and beautifully told. Benjamin gives us a woman who is defined by her character, not her height. All this is presented against a backdrop of historical events – Civil War, the opening of the West, and life in the Gilded Age.

I really liked this book. I was completely mesmerized by Vinnie’s story, and that of the other members of her troupe. I grew up in San Antonio Texas, the home of the Hertzberg Circus Collection. When I was a child I spent many a Saturday visiting the collection, which was housed in the main Public Library downtown. It is the oldest and largest public collection of circus memorabilia in America. There is a significant amount of Tom Thumb memorabilia; one of the artifacts is the coach custom-made for General Tom Thumb. Unfortunately, by 2001 the building had deteriorated so much that the collection was at risk. It was moved to storage and is now conserved by the Witte Museum. It is not currently on display, though the many volumes of books and records are available to scholars for research (by appointment only). ( )
  BookConcierge | Jun 25, 2016 |
At first I thought that this was going to be such a great book. The first 100 or so pages were, however, then it became somewhat boring to me and I kept thinking......when is this going to be over. It picks up again in my opinion...but then falls back down towards the end.

I was able to finish it, but I could have spent my time reading something a bit more entertaining. ( )
  gma2lana | May 9, 2016 |
One of my favorite books of the year; Benjamin utterly charmed me with this one. She has utterly captured another time and place and Vinnie is a character I will not soon forget. ( )
  mamashepp | Mar 29, 2016 |
One of my favorite books of the year; Benjamin utterly charmed me with this one. She has utterly captured another time and place and Vinnie is a character I will not soon forget. ( )
  mamashepp | Mar 29, 2016 |
I listened to this book on audio CD. What an amazing tale. I absolutely fell in love with Vinnie. She was so strong and determined. The characters were rich and entertaining. Highly recommend. ( )
  lacey.tucker | Mar 10, 2016 |
Showing 1-5 of 98 (next | show all)
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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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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)

(summary from another edition)

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