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The Autobiography of Mrs. Tom Thumb

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Most Helpful Favorable Review

6 out of 6 people found this review helpful.

A big story in a small package

Author Melanie Benjamin immersed herself in autobiographies of Lavinia Warren Bump Scratton and P.T. Barnum, and created a fictional biography based on lots of truth and fact.

Lavinia was born normal-sized, but quit growing (or drastically slowed her growth) around o...
Author Melanie Benjamin immersed herself in autobiographies of Lavinia Warren Bump Scratton and P.T. Barnum, and created a fictional biography based on lots of truth and fact.

Lavinia was born normal-sized, but quit growing (or drastically slowed her growth) around one-year of age, and at her full height she stood only 32 inches high. She may have been small in stature, but she was not small in personality. Never content to remain at home and lead a quiet, simple life, Lavinia always dreamed of seeing the world. And thanks to showman P.T. Barnum, that's exactly what she does over her roller-coaster career of ups and downs.

During her years with Barnum, a friendship builds, and sometimes it is for him that does things of which she may not agree with or be proud. Eventually she marries General Tom Thumb (aka Charles Stratton), taking on what becomes her most famous role as "Mrs. Tom Thumb".

Her husband Charles Stratton was for me perhaps the most real and believable character in the book, although at times quite unlikable given his "weak" personality. Raised by Barnum from childhood, he was molded into a character that he himself began to believe, never quite recognizing he didn't fit into society and was always something of a farce.

P.T. Barnum is always a showman, and always looking for a way to turn something into a headline, even if it means exploiting friends. However there is a genuine friendship between him and both Lavinia and Charles.

Lavinia's little sister (and when I say "little", I mean both in age and height. Minnie was only 27 inches tall) seems weak and simple and perpetually frightened through most of the book. It isn't until later that you begin to question whether perhaps she was actually the strongest of them all.

Well-written and engaging, this book was able to hold me to the end. However there was something about it that bugged me. I've tried to figure it out, and the only word that continually comes to mind is "pretentious" in regards to Lavinia. But despite this being a little off-putting for me, I still enjoyed this story and would recommend it to anyone who enjoys historical fiction and a "novel" novel!

posted by nfmgirl on September 7, 2011

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Most Helpful Critical Review

3 out of 4 people found this review helpful.

The Autobiography of Mrs. Tom Thumb By Melanie Benjamin At two

The Autobiography of Mrs. Tom Thumb
By Melanie Benjamin

At two foot eight inches Mercy Lavinia Bump is the perfect miniature woman. She started out as a school teacher then when she was seventeen she was approached to travel on a boat as a performer, with this first ta...
The Autobiography of Mrs. Tom Thumb
By Melanie Benjamin

At two foot eight inches Mercy Lavinia Bump is the perfect miniature woman. She started out as a school teacher then when she was seventeen she was approached to travel on a boat as a performer, with this first taste of fame she would continue on to become an icon during a time of great unrest. This is a fictional autobiography of the woman who became Mrs. Tom Thumb half of the perfect miniature couple.

I almost didn’t make it through this book; the author takes an interesting story and turns it into something dull and annoying. I say annoying due to the fact that Melanie Benjamin turned Lavinia Bump into an egotistical arrogant woman who thought every other little person, including her husband and sister, to be less intelligent than she was. Then there is the main dilemma of the novel which, with a quite glance at wikipedia you will find out what it is, turns out to be absolutely ludicrous. To add to these issues is the fact that Lavinia never loved Tom Thumb but actually P.T. Barnum and never even consummated her wedding, I find this entirely too hard to believe. Melanie Benjamin may be a good writer but this story turned out to be rubbish, and what was with the rant about the polygamist Mormons? Skip it and try google.

posted by BookwormReflects on July 6, 2012

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  • Posted September 7, 2011

    more from this reviewer

    A big story in a small package

    Author Melanie Benjamin immersed herself in autobiographies of Lavinia Warren Bump Scratton and P.T. Barnum, and created a fictional biography based on lots of truth and fact.

    Lavinia was born normal-sized, but quit growing (or drastically slowed her growth) around one-year of age, and at her full height she stood only 32 inches high. She may have been small in stature, but she was not small in personality. Never content to remain at home and lead a quiet, simple life, Lavinia always dreamed of seeing the world. And thanks to showman P.T. Barnum, that's exactly what she does over her roller-coaster career of ups and downs.

    During her years with Barnum, a friendship builds, and sometimes it is for him that does things of which she may not agree with or be proud. Eventually she marries General Tom Thumb (aka Charles Stratton), taking on what becomes her most famous role as "Mrs. Tom Thumb".

    Her husband Charles Stratton was for me perhaps the most real and believable character in the book, although at times quite unlikable given his "weak" personality. Raised by Barnum from childhood, he was molded into a character that he himself began to believe, never quite recognizing he didn't fit into society and was always something of a farce.

    P.T. Barnum is always a showman, and always looking for a way to turn something into a headline, even if it means exploiting friends. However there is a genuine friendship between him and both Lavinia and Charles.

    Lavinia's little sister (and when I say "little", I mean both in age and height. Minnie was only 27 inches tall) seems weak and simple and perpetually frightened through most of the book. It isn't until later that you begin to question whether perhaps she was actually the strongest of them all.

    Well-written and engaging, this book was able to hold me to the end. However there was something about it that bugged me. I've tried to figure it out, and the only word that continually comes to mind is "pretentious" in regards to Lavinia. But despite this being a little off-putting for me, I still enjoyed this story and would recommend it to anyone who enjoys historical fiction and a "novel" novel!

    6 out of 6 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Posted September 6, 2011

    Highly Recommended - you must check it out!!

    Great reading, love the history intervoven with the storyline - gave me good visuals as I read. I do wish Nook Color would add accompanying photos or artwork with the book, all I've ever seen is the cover art.

    4 out of 4 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted July 6, 2012

    more from this reviewer

    The Autobiography of Mrs. Tom Thumb By Melanie Benjamin At two

    The Autobiography of Mrs. Tom Thumb
    By Melanie Benjamin

    At two foot eight inches Mercy Lavinia Bump is the perfect miniature woman. She started out as a school teacher then when she was seventeen she was approached to travel on a boat as a performer, with this first taste of fame she would continue on to become an icon during a time of great unrest. This is a fictional autobiography of the woman who became Mrs. Tom Thumb half of the perfect miniature couple.

    I almost didn’t make it through this book; the author takes an interesting story and turns it into something dull and annoying. I say annoying due to the fact that Melanie Benjamin turned Lavinia Bump into an egotistical arrogant woman who thought every other little person, including her husband and sister, to be less intelligent than she was. Then there is the main dilemma of the novel which, with a quite glance at wikipedia you will find out what it is, turns out to be absolutely ludicrous. To add to these issues is the fact that Lavinia never loved Tom Thumb but actually P.T. Barnum and never even consummated her wedding, I find this entirely too hard to believe. Melanie Benjamin may be a good writer but this story turned out to be rubbish, and what was with the rant about the polygamist Mormons? Skip it and try google.

    3 out of 4 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Posted September 12, 2011

    more from this reviewer

    Interesting Read

    Very interesting read. Love how it's based on a real person and real events. I would definitely recommend it to anyone.

    3 out of 4 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Posted August 23, 2011

    A little Icon made fresh for a new generation!

    Mercy Lavinia Warren Bump Stratton or 'Vinnie' to her friends and family was an actual woman in history standing a mere 32 inches tall. Prior to reading this novel I hadn't heard Mrs. Tom Thumb. What a delight to learn about her rich history and character through Melanie Benjamin's autobiographical novel. Wow does that seem like a conflict of terms. Vinnie had hoped to write an autobiography of her life, and had taken notes and written journals toward that goal. Her dream was not fulfilled and credit goes to Melanie Benjamin for bringing Vinnie's story to light.

    As a 'dwarf' she had quite the difficult life just trying to see eye to eye with the world. She was a feisty gal though and by age 16 she was the school marm at the local school after having exceeded at her own schooling. Colonel Wood, a man with dollar signs in his eyes lures Vinnie away under the pretense of her performing and making a big name for herself, only to find herself working on a river boat with other 'misfits'. The world was not kind and Vinnie soon found many reasons that she should have stayed home with her family and her one sister Minnie who was the same size as she.

    The Civil War ended Vinnie's dreadful showcase and she was able to return home. Still discontent with the boringness of living in a small town she wrote to PT Barnum in the hopes of joining his troupe. She ended up meeting with him, and found in him a friend and confident as well as a true artist in his field. Through Mr. Barnum she met her future husband Charles Stratton, or Mr. Tom Thumb. Another miniature person their marriage appeared to be a match made in heaven, but was in appearance only.
    Never quite content with her fame, and her size it seemed Vinnie missed out on just living.

    This was an exciting story with great historical facts and descriptions. Melanie Benjamin brings an old icon into new light for a new generation. It has been fun to meet Vinnie and get to know her and her sister Minnie, one having fame and not fully living, the other to learning contentment and happiness. I loved the relationship dynamics and how Vinnie was able to interact with such an array of characters as she made her debut. The characters were vivid and real and it did indeed feel as if we were reading a true autobiography.

    I received a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

    3 out of 4 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted February 8, 2013

    I so loved this book!!! A great read about a smart woman with a

    I so loved this book!!! A great read about a smart woman with a disability. Couldn't put it down!!

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted August 24, 2011

    more from this reviewer

    Heart Warming and Heart Wrenching

    She may have been born normal size (tipping the scales at 6 lbs!), Mercy Lavinia Warren Bump, aka Vinnie, quite growing after her first year. She matured in all ways but in height but she more than made up for that by living larger than life and never letting her size keep her from seeing the world. The only thing she didn't allow herself was love. Even though she married Mr. Tom Thumb it was a marriage of convenience and she never let herself fall in love with him or let him know her as a husband should. Heart-warming and heart-wrenching all folded into one this story will take you on a journey of the soul and heart.

    I was swept up in Vinnie's adventures and tribulations. From her early years as a schoolteacher to her harrowing escape from the squirmy Colonel Wood all the way to her time with the P.T. Barnum we become invested in Vinnie's life. She was always reaching for the next big thing. Her overprotective manner to her sister Minnie comes out of fear of what Vinnie herself won't allow herself to experience and when Minnie sets out on her own we see the vulnerability that hasn't before been allowed to surface in Vinnie. In the end P.T. Barnum said it well with this:

    "And Minnie-she's different than you, no matter how much you try to convince yourself otherwise. She isn't you, because she's happy. And you're not."pg.~333

    I would recommend this book for all historical fiction lovers. The contents of this book will have you flipping pages to see what Minnie will do next. It will also bring you joy and tears (yes..the tears flowed freely). I will definitely be reading other books by Melanie.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted August 8, 2011

    Beautifully written historical fiction!

    There are some books that you just hate to see come to an end. For me, this is one of them. Learning what life was like for 32 inch Vinnie during one of the most fascinating times in our country's history is historical fiction at its best. Ms Benjamin lets you see through the eyes of a woman who was ahead of her time and determined to be treated with dignity and respect by all who knew her. Rich writing vivid in detail make this a novel I won't soon forget and will highly recommend.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted November 26, 2014

    Once again Ms Benjamin has written an outstanding piece of histo

    Once again Ms Benjamin has written an outstanding piece of historical fiction. This is my third Melanie book and I will purchase and enjoy
    anything else she writes.She makes you really care about the characters and of course teaches a good bit of history as well. Well done!

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 12, 2013

    AMUSING

    I know it wasn't true, but I thoroughly enjoyed it. Couldn't put it down. I recommend it for enjoyable light reading.

    1 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted November 9, 2014

    great

    I enjoyed the book. I felt like it was very real and talked about it later to a friend. I have been to the museum in San Antonio to see the carriage. It may her much less of a what people felt were so called "freaks of nature" back then. Very enlightening. After I read this I looked her up on the internet also.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted October 31, 2014

    Such an enjoyable story

    This is a wonderful story about people who might not fit right into the normal workforce instead found wonderful lucrative opportunities by joining the circus. There they could enjoy the success they desired along with their own independence. Also, they could pay their own way through life and take care of themselves. They were able to have opportunities that they would have never found if they had not left home. I really enjoyed the book.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Posted October 31, 2014

    LOVE LOVE LOVED it!

    This is something different and special in the field of historical fiction. Fascinating character and her adventures (true), plus inner life (speculative, but totally plausible). This is the first book that has made me cry since The Book Thief. I immediately bought the author's other works. I'm not sure why I purchased this one, but I'm more than glad I did!

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 23, 2014

    A

    The author made her heroine truly come alive! The reader really gets to know her and to understand how it it feels to be tiny in a huge, for her, world. A grand read with a good sense of the period.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted October 5, 2014

    Interesting book

    While I very much enjoyed reading about our new and growing country ,during the book and in the afterword. (Thank you for the pics by the way.) I found the time frame she lived in to be quite exrtaordinaryand that alone is a coux.once she sighned with Barnum,i had only a small amount of pity lefr for Vinnie,she really pushed HARD for her wants. Ans manipulated to get them.she never took enough time to understand the rest of the ones who loved her.only how it pertained to furthering her newest adventure. And further her life style . It seemed to me she never really understand Minnies and Toms unhappiness. But the part of that that irritated me was she just kept moving on with her precious life. I am choosing ti believe after the talk with Barnum after Charles death that she changed into a more considerate person. Overall i enjoyed this authors book very much and the story was interesting to me and i read it eagerly.i will read more by this author. Its just in my opinion Vinnie was as unbearingly thoughtless person ,

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 4, 2014

    Not good

    Did not care for the main character
    Very self centered person. Not likeable and after reading half way through did not care what happened to her.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 24, 2013

    OutCast

    &#8643OutCast&#8642 , no nickname
    <p>
    Age- Two weeks since warrior so... Xq Sixteen moons.
    <p>
    &female
    <p>
    Rank- Warrior/Queen
    <p>
    Appearance- A pure, crisp white she cat with long legs and tail. Her belly curves and she has fresh scratches. Her eyes are intimidating, bl<.>ood red, creepy. She blends with snow perfectly.
    <p>
    Personality- Not afraid to jump into battle to help someone else. Will ki<..>ll anyone if they get between her and her new family. Hates wolves and heights since she was a kit.
    <p>
    Mate/Crush- DeepThorn and will remain DeepThorn. T.T
    <p>
    Kits- Expecting in half a moon. [Due tomarrow night]
    <p>
    History- Don't ask. EVER. T.T
    <p>
    Kin- See history.
    <p>
    Other- Nope. Got nothin' else.
    <p>
    Themesong(s)- Ready Aim Fire by Imagine Dragons, SAIL by Awolnation, and Monster by Eminem!!!! &hearts those bands!!!
    <p>
    Signature- &#8643&#8642 incorporated in some way.
    <p>
    This took a while. So appreciate it!!! I DON'T HEAR CLAPPING!

    0 out of 14 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 20, 2013

    Badgerslash 囎

    Name: Isnt it obvious?

    Mate: None

    Kits: None

    Crush: I do have one, but its kinda personal

    Looks: Black she cat with white tipped ears, a white front paw, green eyes, well built.

    Kin: Deathclaw(sister), Iceheart(mother), Blood(father)

    Personality:fun,energetic,and deadly

    Other: she has a bad history

    0 out of 9 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 24, 2013

    DeepThorn Bio -{as of 12/23/13}-

    &star DeepThorn &star
    <p> Age- uh.....let's just say as old as OutCast
    <p> Gender- oh uh...idk. TOM [ya id<_>iot]
    <p> Rank- elite warrior :D
    <p> Looks- this tom for sure looks intimitating. His pelt is a sleek, muscular, deep brown, so dark....you can consider it a mud covered black. Though his pelt is dark, his eyes are not. they blaze on a brilliant amber, like moonlight candles. His back has a scar running from mid-back to his shoulder from attacking a wolf [btw- he rocked and won the fight.]
    <p> Personality- his pers make him one u don't wanna piss off. He is quite attentive to comments, anything even hunted against him or his ma<_>te can set him off. Because of that, he is also protective. Although is his protective, he has a soft spot for kits and is fairly gentle and playful around them. In battle, he really doesn't care. You touch his family..... you di<_>e.
    <p> Crush/ Ma<_>te- OutCast [ever since an app]
    <p> Kits- excpecting.....
    <p> Family- all is unknown for him. Flaming, [or was it Blockade] took him in as a kit.
    <p> Other- obviously, he cares for OutCast ad will ki<_>ll himself if it means she lives

    0 out of 8 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted May 24, 2013

    Read for book club and enjoyed it!

    This was a book chosen for discussion and not normally one I would have picked up on my own. The author did a fine job of writing from Vinnie's point of view and really made the characters come alive.

    Kudos on the research and a wonderful book.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
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