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The Remarkable Courtship of General Tom Thumb

3.39  ·  Rating details ·  148 ratings  ·  34 reviews
"An irresistible novel set against the backdrop of the American Civil War and based on the real life of Tom Thumb, a young man only twenty-five inches tall, who became America's first internationally recognized entertainer. By a writer whose previous work has been called "sprawling and elegant" (The New York Times Book Review), this novel weaves together a fascinating behi ...more
Paperback, 384 pages
Published July 21st 2015 by Scribner (first published January 7th 2014)
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Long before the fascination with the ‘Little People’ starring in multiple reality shows; there were two mini-celebrities (no pun intended) who paved the way. General Tom Thumb (Charlie Stratton) and Lavinia Warren were performers under PT Barnum during the Civil War era. Despite the country’s upheaval; Charlie and Lavinia achieved stardom and mingled with the top-most figures in history. Nicholas Rinaldi brings their story and marriage to life in, “The Remarkable Courtship of General Tom Thumb”. ...more
Franko Waters
Aug 15, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Anyone familiar with Nicholas Rinaldi's bold and lyrical work (Jukebox Queen of Malta, Between Two Rivers, Bridge Fall Down) will not be disappointed, and will discover in The Remarkable Courtship of General Tom Thumb some timeless storytelling. Storytelling that weaves robust the unnatural and humbug wonders of P. T. Barnum with the the very real love between Tom Thumb and Lavinia Warren, set to the backdrop of the all too real Civil War. A great read it would be if that were all, but Rinaldi h ...more
3 stars, but it's a stretch. Rounding up. ...more
Susan Johnston
Aug 23, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
As a child I recall the movie Tom Thumb and on occasion, have read bits and bobs about him. I truly did not know much about his life and this book gives some poignant insights. It is not by any means a biography. Mr. Rinaldi states that very clearly. However, he has taken much of what is known about his life and then embellished to make a fascinating study of the times as well as what life was like for a little person in the 1800's.
His was a life of great successes, wealth, fame as well as frust
Aug 17, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
The Remarkable Courtship of General Tom Thumb provides a wonderful look back into 19th century New York City, P.T. Barnum's showmanship, and a country shaped by the Civil War. Rinaldi brings this era to life through the eyes of Tom Thumb, shedding light on a rich and unusual cast of characters who breathe with emotions and motivations that are not terribly distant from our own. The writing style is amazingly lyrical, and the book flows in a pleasingly musical way as the narrative unfolds. This i ...more
Jul 31, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: first-read
I really enjoyed this story set in the civil war period. I knew almost nothing about Tom Thumb and only associated PT Barnum with the Barnum & Bailey Circus. Nicholas Rinaldi did a great job setting the story and providing a full, colorful backdrop of the period.

I'm looking forward to reading his other works.
Adam Southern
Aug 21, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Great story with several high-profile characters.
Read for a book club.

I would say this was about 2.5 stars for me. I didn't necessarily hate the book, but it rambled on and on without much of a plot. Every once in a while some action would finally happen, but then that was it and we were back to a travelogue style of writing that got really repetitive and boring. I almost ditched the book several times, but I persevered for the sake of my book club. I wanted to care about the characters, but the way they were written, I wasn't able to.

The only
May 29, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
The Remarkable Courtship of General Tom Thumb by Nicholas Rinaldi is a free NetGalley ebook that I read in late May.

Thought I had read this book before, but, no, that had been a Melanie Benjamin book (The Autobiography of Mrs Tom Thumb).  This, in a somewhat similar way, is wistful and nostalgic with Tom/Charlie being employed at age 5 (though advertised as 11) and witnessing wondrous sights and experiences, alongside the tumultuousness and tension of the Civil War. Mind you, this is also a stor
Jul 30, 2017 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
From a historical fiction standpoint, I enjoyed the author's depiction of Civil War history through the memories of Tom Thumb. The story was told in the format first person, past tense -memories- and it felt as though the author rambled through the book with no particular point or end. ...more
Jan 02, 2018 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
The primary focus of this book is to describe the civil war through the eyes of Tom Thumb. It is a fictional novel which I expected to focus more on the relationships of Tom Thumb. As a story about the civil war it restated what I already new.
Laurie Larson-Doornbos
The Remarkable Courtship of General Tom Thumb (NetGalley ARC)
Nicholas Rinaldi
release date: August 2014

I know little of freak shows or P.T. Barnum, other than the circus. My exposure to little people came first from The Wizard of Oz as a child--pretty exploitive, I'm guessing--, and, more recently, the reality show Little People, Big World. So a historical novel about General Tom Thumb of P.T. Barnum's great museum in New York City sounded interesting. Author Nicholas Rinaldi alternates the voice
Aug 11, 2014 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction, first-reads
Disclosure: I received this novel for free through a Goodreads' First Read's giveaway.

I have mixed feelings about this novel. A large part of these mixed feelings stem from my not knowing what could be true, what is true, and what is completely made up. In general, I tend to prefer books that are actually true, rather than historical fiction works, but I thought I would give this one a try, since the subject matter is interesting. So while I did find the overall storyline itself interesting, I
Kate Z
Feb 02, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
The reviews for this one seem to be all over the map but I am enjoying it. Perhaps it's just where this book falls in my reading life that has made it pleasurable or perhaps it is because I feel like I've read too few books about the Civil War and I'm enjoying filling in some of those gaps. Either way, I have found the narration to be light without feeling fluffy and the depictions of the war to be personal (enough) without being depressing or overdone.


As I said above, maybe this is just
Jo Butler
Dec 10, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Who is the world’s most famed entertainer during the Civil War era? John Wilkes Booth may come to mind, but his contemporary, Tom Thumb, is the name on everyone’s lips. Born Charlie Stratton, the lad was twenty-six inches long at six months, but never grew another inch until he was in his mid-teens. Dwarfism is no curse for Charlie, who is raised to stardom by P.T. Barnum. The showman dubs his four-year old performer “General Tom Thumb,” and Tom’s first role is Baby Jesus, who leaps out of his m ...more
Generally I tend to only offer a review on books I love and recommend. I blame very tough grading teachers in my English classes leaving this STEM type sure that I am probably missing something and it is not the author's fault for that.

Only because a friend ....who is a prolific reader and finds time in her very busy family and community life to write extensive, insightful reviews on EVERY book she picks up ....let me know it was NOT okay to just slap stars down here with no remarks, I am back t
Thomas M.
Sep 25, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction
I read no more than one chapter at a sitting to stall ending it. Very exciting read for me with the danger, intrigue and espionage, riots, war and the beautifully quilted plotting. Good defense of Whitman poetry by Tom. "The lines come rushing in at you like rushing waves." Minnie and her sharp tongue are a joy! Damned interesting characters. Much applauding going on beneath the "leaves of grass" at Mountain Grove.

These lines grabbed me:

But the sky, that was something else. And Zatagatooz—I knew
Dec 06, 2014 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is an enjoyable and very readable historical novel based on the life of General Tom Thumb, one of the world’s first international celebrities. Discovered when only four years old by impresario P.T.Barnum, Tom Thumb, or Charles Stratton, went on to fame and fortune as an entertainer and had an interesting and successful life. Set against the background of the American Civil War, we meet a whole cast of characters from Tom Thumb’s fellow entertainers to Abraham Lincoln to Queen Victoria. Narr ...more
150 word review

The premise of this book was intriguing – two dwarves (well, I suppose four) touring America during the Civil War. With PT Barnum at the helm, no less. I have to admit that I've always been fascinated with the psychology of the circus and “freak shows.” But the plot only skimmed the surface and since it was in first person, fell to the trap of being too introspective. Sure, I knew what the main characters were thinking, but I didn't feel like it led anywhere significant.

The main p
Matthew Perry
I won this in a goodreads giveaway and was excited to get started. I will say that the major problem of this book is the fact that is is entirely unbelievable. The story revolves around sideshow dwarf Tom thumb and his life with barnum. Tom just happens to whiteness most of the major actions of the civil war by dumb luck. He and barnum see bull run and are involved in the retreat, after he is married Tom and his dwarf bride just so happened to be in Chambersburg the very night McCausland raided ...more
Rose Moore
The Remarkable Courtship of Tom Thumb is a historical novel focusing around the Civil War as seen from the perspective of Tom Thumb and his bride, dwarf performers for Barnum (as in Barnum and Bailey/Museum of Freaks). This is something that I expected to find fascinating, as I love reading about performers (especially those on the fringes of "normal" society), historical fiction (especially periods about which I know little, the Civil War being one of those periods) and elements of romance.

Jul 18, 2014 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Part history - part romance - part "reality stars" of the Civil War. The Remarkable Courtship Of General Tom Thumb provides a unique blend of perspectives of an extremely turbulent period in America's history. From the fascinating and bizarre world of Barnum's Circus to the despair and resolve of Lincoln's presidency, Tom Thumb and his bride live in a world of privilege - full of excess and access - all because of their diminutive size. While their main job was to distract the populace from the ...more
I enjoyed this romp thru the times of Barnum and his crazy ideas to make people see the Unusual. (today, not much is unusual)
Tom Thumb (Charles) goes on the road at a young age and spends his entire life working the stage across the world. He falls in-love with Lavinia and they marry in a huge ceremony and even have a reception thrown by Abe Lincoln in the White House. Lavinia's younger sister Minnie is her maid of honor and joins the traveling dwarf show. (I was looking up photos online and som
I just wasn't able to read this book. I very much like the topic and time period but the voice and phraseology chosen for Tom Thumb just don't read true and I had too hard of a time trying to picture the character in the sense portrayed. I understand the artistic license of taking a character out of its typical setting and placing it elsewhere, or adding a zombie perhaps. However, to change the character in it's own setting reads more like a lack of research or understanding of the nuances of wh ...more
It got better as it went on. Tom Thumb was pretty much annoying in the first few chapters.

Their courtship was pretty brief, but I guess, "The Remarkable Story of Tom Thumb, Lavinia Warren, Their Marriage and Adventures During the Civil War" would have been way too long to put on a book cover.

Barnum's Museum sounds amazing. I would have liked to have seen it.

I also confess, I kept hearing the voices of The Little Couple in place of Tom and Vinny in this story.
Theresa Hildebrand
PT Barnum is the main reason that I picked up this book. Having read Melanie Benjamin's ~ The Autobiography of Mrs Tom Thumb, I was curious to read the story from the other side of the bed. Rinaldi did a wonderful job of bringing Charlie & Vinny to life. The up close narratives of the Civil War were just the right amount & ended before I started skimming paragraphs. On to my next PT book.... ...more
Laura Lee
Aug 10, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Interesting read, based on the Civil War years. Tom Thumb discovers his own capacity for heroism and feelings of war. Whole other style than previous book about Tom and his Wife, Lavinia.
Martha Netoff
Sep 04, 2014 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: adult
interesting look at a curious dwarf but not just about him but also an interesting book about the civil war Era and mr. barnum
Dec 04, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I really enjoyed this book. I learned a lot about the Civil War from the perspective of what was going on outside the war - something you don't often see. ...more
Dec 12, 2014 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Eh. The Autobiography of Mrs. Tom Thumb by Melanie Benjamin was much better! I recommend that book instead of this one.
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Nicholas Rinaldi was a poet and novelist of three novels. His poems and fiction have won numerous awards, and he was recently honored as the 2007 Artist of the Year by the Fairfield Arts Council. Rinaldi earned a doctorate degree from Fordham University and taught courses in literature and creative writing at Fairfield University in Fairfield, Connecticut.

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