The Autobiography of Mrs. Tom Thumb by Melanie Benjamin – Book Review

The Autobiography of Mrs. Tom Thumb by Melanie Benjamin
Published by Delacorte Press, an imprint of Random House

In P.T. Barnum’s over-sized world, Lavinia “Vinnie” Bump was both the biggest and the smallest thing around. Born a normal size, both Vinnie and her younger sister Minnie simply stopped growing as young children, Vinnie eventually standing only 32 inches high, and Minnie even smaller. Vinnie, however, was determined never to let her height define her or hold her back and set out to make sure that she had access to nearly everything life could offer.

Melanie Benjamin has a special talent for ferreting out fascinating women who most people would never think to wonder about and bringing their stories to life, first with Alice Liddell, the real Alice behind Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, and now with Lavinia Bump. Benjamin’s Lavinia was strong and determined, although fallible and occasionally naive. There were times that her voice seemed a bit too reminiscent of Alice’s in Alice I Have Been, but the women did, at least how Benjamin wrote them, have somewhat similar, at times almost imperial, personalities.

The Autobiography of Mrs. Tom Thumb provides a much different perspective of the 1850s and 60s than most readers are probably familiar with, but Benjamin makes both her characters and the time period come to life. Recommended.

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