Monday, July 4, 2011

The Autobiography of Mrs. Tom Thumb by Melanie Benjamin

I have mixed feelings about The Autobiography of Mrs. Tom Thumb.  It’s the story of Mercy Lavinia Warren Bump Stratton, known to most as Vinnie or Mrs. Tom Thumb.  She was only thirty-two inches tall as an adult, having the condition known as proportionate dwarfism.  While Vinnie was in fact a real person, the story is a novel told from her perspective.

Vinnie’s small size does not mean she had a small personality.  Vinnie had plans to see the world and have everyone know her name.  When a “cousin” invites her to join his traveling show, she anticipates that she would be performing.  She had no idea her size was to be the show.  The story follows Vinnie’s life in show business, both at the beginning and later under contract with P.T. Barnum.  

I enjoyed the first part of the story a great deal.  I enjoyed Vinnie as a child and a young adult learning her way in a big world.  The story takes place in a fascinating time in history, so interesting that I found myself doing research into some of the people and places mentioned.   
I had trouble with the story when I started disliking Vinnie just a little bit.  Her marriage to Charles Stratton (General Tom Thumb) was never real to her and I felt that Vinnie became hard and cold after that.   Ms. Benjamin does an excellent job of story telling but I have to wonder if the real Vinnie was that hard or not.  I liked the innocent Vinnie a little bit more.   This is worth a read but I can't recommend it like I want to.

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