Tuesday, June 28, 2011

The Autobiography of Mrs. Tom Thumb-Melanie Benjamin

The Autobiography of Mrs. Tom Thumb
Melanie Benjamin
Delacorte, Jul 26 2011, $25.00
ISBN: 9780385344159

Her family encouraged dwarf Mercy Lavinia “Vinnie” Bump to stay out of the public’s eye so as to avoid the stares and other rude behavior. Unlike her beloved also dwarf sister Minnie who preferred to a reclusive life, Vinnie decided to prove an adult woman in a body under three feet tall could thrive. She joined P. T. Barnum’s freak show and married her dwarf peer General Tom Thumb in the wedding of the nineteenth century so covered that the Civil War took a back seat to the gala. This enable both to leave the troupe as the celebrity power couple toured the world meeting monarchs and presidents and other leaders. However, the cost of her being extroverted is the impact on her introverted sister.

This is an enjoyable biographical fiction tale that focuses on the "perfect woman in miniature" who becomes a superstar while belonging to the elite of New York high society. The best aspects of the tale are the triangle relationships between the General, Vinnie and Barnum although that limits insight into the title character’s global escapades and ignores her last four decades of life even with Vinnie’s superego being stratospheric. Still Vinnie’s lust for life makes for an engaging historical story as she tells her story with the world as her oyster.

Harriet Klausner

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