Thursday, April 7, 2016

Review: The Autobiography of Mrs. Tom Thumb by Melanie Benjamin

Title: The Autobiography of Mrs. Tom Thumb
Author: Melanie Benjamin
Published by: Delacorte Press
Released: 2011
Summary: Mercy Lavinia Warren Bump was born small, but destined for big things. Born with a form of dwarfism that caused her to be small, but proportional, Vinnie took advantage of her size and gained fame because of it. Vinnie recounts her journey from small schoolmarm to bestselling attraction under the management of the legendary P.T. Barnum. Vinnie recounts her highs, lows, happiness, and tragedies in her years upon the stage. An enjoyable look into the life of one of the smallest superstars.

Thought it would be fun to include a picture of Mercy Lavinia Warren Bump since she was an actual person.
Lavinia Warren

Vinnie on her wedding day to Tom Thumb. It was a very publicized event. Vinnie had her sister as a bridesmaid and Tom Thumb had Commodore Nutt as his groomsman.

My Thoughts: I was very excited to get my hands on this book. I had never heard a thing of Vinnie Warren until my mom checked this book out from the library. Vinnie and her story was such an interesting thing. I'm already a fan of historical fiction, circuses, and freak shows, so this seemed right up my alley. I'd also already read and enjoyed one of Melanie Benjamin's other works (Alice I Have Been), so I felt I couldn't go wrong with reading about Mrs. Tom Thumb.
I ended up being a little disappointed by the story. It just dragged on and on, with Vinnie traveling and doing the same sorts of things over and over. It had weird time jumps, where characters that had been young were now dead, and characters that were single were now married, with really no detailed explanation.
My biggest disappointment lay not with the story, but the death of the fairytale, mostly the fairytale of the marriage of Mr. and Mrs. Tom Thumb. I wanted Vinnie to have found love and happiness with a man sized just for her, but instead, I came to one of the biggest publicity stunts ever carried out. It was just depressing that Vinnie married just for fame, and I think it was unfair to Mr. Tom Thumb. Charles Stratton seemed like such a sweet little guy and he really deserved a sense of love and true companionship that Vinnie never really gave him. Now I know I shouldn't accept this fictionalized story as fact, so I hope in real life, Vinnie and Charles had a more fulfilling marriage than what was presented in the book.
Also, while I admire Vinnie for going out there and grabbing life, I wish she just hadn't been so hungry for the fame and people remembering her name. If preforming was what she loved to do, then fine, go do it, but she just never seemed really fulfilled or entirely satisfied in the book.
In the end, this story didn't live up to the fairytale that I wanted it to be. This wasn't the fault of Melanie Benjamin, but really of my own expectations. Vinnie Warren was definitely an interesting person, and learning about her and her life isn't something I regret. For those who love historical fiction, go check this one out. There will never be another Lavinia Warren, who traveled the world, met Queens, presidents, generals, and helped the world forget for a little while the horrors of the Civil War. Lavinia Warren might have been small, but she led a big life.
Disappointed I Didn't Get The Fairytale, But Still Glad To Have Learned of Lavinia Warren.
Images found through google image source and

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