Julie's Reviews > The Autobiography of Mrs. Tom Thumb

The Autobiography of Mrs. Tom Thumb by Melanie Benjamin
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May 23, 2011

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bookshelves: fiction, vine, own, signed-copy
Read from June 03 to 11, 2011 — I own a copy

There’s no doubt that Benjamin is skilled at writing in the formal tone of the Victorian era, as demonstrated in Alice I Have Been and now Mrs. Tom Thumb. Her second novel did not resonate with me as much as her first, partly because I find anything Alice related captivating, but mostly because I didn’t find the title character particularly endearing. Lavinia Warren is extraordinary in both her mind and her size, but she is more concerned about propriety and fame. The first quarter of the book, Lavinia outlines her upbringing and prestigious lineage, her family life and especially the relationship with her younger sister Minnie, who is also a little person. The second part of the book details her experience as a “performer” on a riverboat. It isn’t until halfway through that she finally signs on with the great P.T. Barnum and meets her future husband. This is where my opinion of Lavinia sours.

Lavinia approaches her marriage to Charles Stratton aka General Tom Thumb just as she would a business proposition. She has no affection toward him and she unceremoniously agrees to marry him because she knows it will improve revenue from their performances. Though Charles is caring and attentive, it is her cold-heartedness that is distasteful. Benjamin wrote Lavinia too pragmatically. She travels the world and has these amazing experiences, but she doesn’t take time to describe these wonders, focusing instead on the mundane and domestic.

There were aspects of the book I liked. I enjoyed the way P.T. Barnum was portrayed as a trustworthy, loyal person despite his larger-than-life image. The “Intermissions” between chapters included news clips from the era such as Civil War updates, tidbits on Society, and innovations being made by people like Thomas Edison. As a piece of historical fiction, this book captured the atmosphere of that time period in America. As a character study, I found Lavinia too cold and shrewd to be sympathetic. Her observations of her own exceptional life lack emotion and for this reason I am not that enthusiastic about this book.

I received a complimentary copy of this book via the Amazon Vine program
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