Sunday, January 13, 2013

The Autobiography of Mrs. Tom Thumb

The Autobiography of Mrs.Tom Thumb by Melanie Benjamin was a hard book for me to rate. This book has been on my to-read list for quite some time and I was excited to read it. As a pediatric nurse who has worked with special needs children, I am equally fascinated and disgusted by the way that "oddities" were treated during this time period. This book was eye-opening for me in many ways.

In this book, Melanie Benjamin weaves the historical information regarding Mercy Lavinia "Vinnie" Warren Bump(better known as Mrs. Tom Thumb) into a well-written piece of fiction. Vinnie was only two feet, eight inches tall and came to fame first as an "oddity" on a traveling barge on the Mississippi river and,more memorably, traveling with the infamous Mr. Phineas Barnum. At the time of her wedding to the equally petite General Tom Thumb, Vinnie was the most famous woman in America.

I decided on a rating of 3 out of 5 stars for this book. I really vacillated on my feelings regarding the book as I read it. On one hand, Melanie Benjamin obviously did extensive research and seamlessly blended the research into a book of fiction that felt very real and was easy to read. On the other hand, I just could not, as hard as I tried, like the main character-Vinnie. I wanted so badly to like her and I felt enormously for her struggles. However, she only thought of herself, never of those around her. She had a desperate need for fame and I felt that this came before everything else, even family and friends. By the end of the book I was simply frustrated with her and could not feel any further compassion.

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