Book 38 of my 2017 Reading Challenge
read from June 30 - July 5
The Autobiography of Mrs. Tom Thumb by Melanie Benjamin
Summary (via the book jacket)
She was only two feet, eight inches tall, but more than a century later, her legend reaches out to us. As a child, Mercy Lavinia "Vinnie" Warren 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 became the world's most unexpected celebrity. Vinnie's wedding captivated the nation, preempted coverage of the Civil War, and even ushered her into the White House. But her fame also endangered 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, 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.
Based on the title, description, and included photos, I was very surprised to find out as I opened the book that this is a fiction novel. Once I made the adjustment in my mind it read very very quickly; I read the first 186 pages sitting on a bench at an amusement park and the surroundings didn't distract me at all.
The "Intermissions" before each chapter didn't bother me but I'm not sure why they were there. They seemed unnecessary because the events mentioned aren't related to the story at all and there was enough historical context in the book itself to make us aware of where in time we were without them.
Even though I found Vinnie to be selfish and annoying, the author has great description of inner and outer motivations that made it easy to understand why she was doing the things she did. It felt very authentic even when I was cringing because I wouldn't act that way.
An example of the descriptive writing:
"Aunt Vinnie, who used to be in show business" - I could just imagine how it would be. On Sundays the children would be forced to come into the parlor and visit with me, giving me a dutiful peck on the cheek while I rocked in my widow's weeds and told them stories they would not believe until they were older. It would only be after I was gone that they would believe me, after someone inherited a trunk full of scrapbooks and costumes and handbills - probably intended to be thrown out, but for some reason, someone thought to open it first. Then, imagine the surprise! Aunt Vinnie had told the truth; she wasn't just a dotty old lady after all. Who would have believed it?
I would definitely read this author again.
Quote from the Book
"And this was the one thing I knew that I could never have - a great love. I must settle for something else - someone less, in every way. I must settle for a love in miniature."