Monday, February 27, 2012

A Biography in Miniature...

"The Autobiography of Mrs. Tom Thumb" by Melanie Benjamin was a recent pick of my book club.  I will confess to not realizing that Mrs. Tom Thumb was a real person so I was quite surprised when I started the book and discovered that it was a fictional account of the life of the real Lavinia Warren a.k.a Mrs. Tom Thumb.

Lavinia was born a normal size baby but stopped growing as a toddler.  She developed normally other than height so became a perfectly proportional woman who was only two feet tall.  After excelling at school she becomes a teacher but yearns to see the world.  When she is offered the opportunity of performing as part of a riverboat show she leaps at the chance.

The riverboat captain turned out to be less than scrupulous and after she escapes his clutches she places herself in the notice of the famous P. T. Barnum.  She joins his American Museum and soon travels the world as part of his exhibition.

The story was fascinating and entertaining.  It is interesting to get the perspective of someone whose viewpoint is only two feet above the ground.  Benjamin filled the novel with historical references and rich detail.  It offers a glimpse of what the world was like in the mid nineteenth century.  Definitely and interesting read.

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