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

The Autobiography of Mrs. Tom Thumb by Melanie Benjamin
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Jul 12, 2011

it was amazing
bookshelves: historical-fiction, library, favorites, oddities, own
Read from October 15 to 19, 2011

Enchanting, engaging, moving, and beautiful. These are just a few words which can amply describe The Autobiography of Mrs. Tom Thumb… and that was only by page 27!

The Autobiography of Mrs. Tom Thumb instantly grabs 110% of your attention with vivid imagery, bright descriptions, emotional currents, and a strong plot without the usual fictional fluff. A coming of age story, depicting self-acceptance and growth; The Autobiography of Mrs. Tom Thumb is a traditional theme and yet far from it and much more magical. The story reads with depth and instantaneous character development.

Focusing on the character of Vinnie, the reader forgets that he/she was just introduced to the story and to her character; one with a strong voice and bold personality, coming alive before your eyes. Vinnie powerfully evokes a bond with the reader, thus resulting in a shared emotional up and down journey. From the first time she was called a “dwarf” to the death of her sister, Vinnie shares her joys and failures with the reader.

Melanie Benjamin’s language and text style is intelligent and skillfully written, yet easy and smooth enough that one keeps turning the pages without even noticing the clock minutes ticking by. The story never drags, even in parts which would in other novels. Basically, it flows like butter and dissolves into the bigger picture of developments and sequencing. It is rare to find a book with NO slow parts but The Autobiography of Mrs. Tom Thumb was genuinely contained and a constantly rotating, engaging, and well-developed novel. Never did I imagine I would tear up at a goodbye scene between a little person and a giantess. It isn’t even a scene I ever even considered! But guess who was blurry-eyed? My favorite chapter was depicting the death of Vinnie’s sister during childbirth. A highly pivotal point to the rest of the book, it evoked much emotion and changed the tone in a moving and satisfying way.

At times, Vinnie is egotistical and vain, putting on airs with society. This causes her brief lapses of realization but then she returns to forgetting her roots. Although this may anger some readers (and perhaps it is supposed to, as it is not the typical path of human self-advancement); it demonstrated that Vinnie is“real” and with faults, just like anyone else. This is best portrayed when she meets some “freaks” while working on a sideshow at Barnum’s circus and although she is considered a novelty herself; she is disgusted by the other “creatures”.

One of the few (and maybe only) sections I could have done without were the “intermissions”: a page of news clippings in between chapters which are obviously placed to help set the scene and setting of the Civil War era. However, I don’t feel it helped much in that sense, nor was it a must-have for the story to progress.

Melanie Benjamin remained quite historically accurate with her work despite some of the fictional matter used to keep the book moving. The chronology and sequencing was in-line with major events and thus, the book isn’t as annoyingly speculated as other historical fiction pieces. Benjamin read the unpublished autobiography of the real Mrs. Tom Thumb (which is a rather dry compilation and is more of a travelogue devoid of any emotion); so it would appear that Vinnie would be very proud of this novel depicting her life.

I would have liked the book to continue onward to Vinnie’s second marriage after the death of General Tom Thumb but I enjoyed the inside look at P.T. Barnum which debunked (based on facts) many of Vinnie’s career and life moments/choices. A combination of “Showboat”, the film “Big Fish”, and “Water for Elephants”; this novel should be the next big film (or at least, play).


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Reading Progress

10/15/2011 page 30
7.0% "I've eagerly awaited this book... and so far, it is ALREADY living up to expectations :D"
10/19/2011 page 352
83.0% "Well... that last chapter made me cry..."
08/08/2016 marked as: read
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Comments (showing 1-2 of 2) (2 new)

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Tonya Well, now you've moved me. I'll have to put this one at the top of my list now, I have to pick it up as soon as possible :)


Orsolya Yay!!! You won't regret it! I don't just "throw" 5 stars out there but this book is worth it. I got it from the library but I may be using that birthday gift card to buy it! I HAVE to own it!


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