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The Autobiography of Mrs. Tom Thumb: A Novel Hardcover – Deckle Edge, July 26, 2011

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 448 pages
  • Publisher: Delacorte Press; First Edition edition (July 26, 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0385344155
  • ISBN-13: 978-0385344159
  • Product Dimensions: 8 x 6.3 x 1.4 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (245 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #416,804 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews Review

Photos from Inside The Autobiography of Mrs. Tom Thumb

Lavinia Warren

The Marriage of Charles Sherwood Stratton and Lavinia Warren


Advance praise for The Autobiography of Mrs. Tom Thumb
“Benjamin handles the era of mid-nineteenth-century America like a native, telling a walloping good story about a tiny person with the soul of a giant. The lovely Lavinia Bump once again comes alive, and we’re all the richer because of it.”—Ellen Bryson, author of The Transformation of Bartholomew Fortuno
“Vinnie Bump is one of the most engaging characters to come along in a while. Nineteenth-century women had few options; Vinnie had fewer yet. Melanie Benjamin renders her deeply human in a no-nonsense Olive Kitteridge sort of way. Readers will not soon forget her. I know I won’t.”—Johanna Moran, author of The Wives of Henry Oades
“Lavinia Warren was only thirty-two inches tall, but in Melanie Benjamin’s The Autobiography of Mrs. Tom Thumb she soars above the tumult of Gilded Age America. Benjamin makes her a woman of courage and refinement with an itch for adventure and ambitions that far outstrip her size. I enjoyed every minute I spent with Vinnie in this exuberant, absorbing, elegantly written novel.”—Carol Wallace, author of Leaving Van Gogh  
“By turns heart-rending and thrilling, this big-hearted book recounts a fictionalized life of this most extraordinary of women in prose that is lush and details that are meticulously researched. I loved this book.”—Sara Gruen, New York Times bestselling author of Ape House and Water for Elephants
“Melanie Benjamin’s striking novel about the diminutive Lavinia Warren Bump, one of P. T. Barnum’s ‘oddities,’ shows that love and desire, strength and ambition, come in all sizes. Mrs. Tom Thumb brings out the humanity in all of us.”—Sandra Dallas, New York Times bestselling author of The Bride’s Home and Whiter Than Snow
“Melanie Benjamin has created a compelling heroine, whose dramatic and poignant story will capture the reader’s heart to the last page.”—Stephanie Cowell, author of Claude & Camille: A Novel of Monet and Marrying Mozart

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Customer Reviews

This was a very well written story.
I almost didn't make it through this book; the author takes an interesting story and turns it into something dull and annoying.
Reflections of a BookWorm
Melanie Benjamin's THE AUTOBIOGRAPHY OF MRS. TOM THUMB is a delightful novel.
Nash Black

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

59 of 61 people found the following review helpful By MommaMia VINE VOICE on June 1, 2011
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
This is the second book by Melanie Benjamin that I have read and I say, with great pleasure, that this is just as engaging as Alice I Have Been. This is the first time I have sat up until the wee hours of the morning until my eyes were blurry with tiredness since I was a young girl! I got this in the mail yesterday and I had a real hard time putting this book I didn't!

Ms. Benjamin is a master storyteller. Her writing is meticulous, flowing and envelopes you in the story immediately. She gives a vivid voice to little known characters from our history and brings them instantly alive. What I love most about this writer is her use of accurate language for the time period presented.

Mercy Lavinia Warren Bump may have been a tiny lady, but her personality is larger than life, and her determination is an inspiration to us all. She overcame what would be considered an insurmountable disability and forged a life for herself in a world where women got married, had babies or taught school. She stood taller than most around her because of the dignified way in which she carried herself through life. She is truly a heroine for all times! Her plucky nature, intelligence, grace and maturity were a shock to many who saw her, who imagined her to be a tiny doll. She was anything but!

I spent the dark hours of early morning and most of my day devouring this book, and I highly recommend it to you and hope you enjoy it half as much as I did.
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41 of 45 people found the following review helpful By Julie Merilatt VINE VOICE on June 13, 2011
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
There's no doubt that Benjamin is skilled at writing in the formal tone of the Victorian era, as demonstrated in Alice I Have Been and now Mrs. Tom Thumb. Her second novel did not resonate with me as much as her first, partly because I find anything Alice related captivating, but mostly because I didn't find the title character particularly endearing. Lavinia Warren is extraordinary in both her mind and her size, but she is more concerned about propriety and fame. The first quarter of the book, Lavinia outlines her upbringing and prestigious lineage, her family life and especially the relationship with her younger sister Minnie, who is also a little person. The second part of the book details her experience as a "performer" on a riverboat. It isn't until halfway through that she finally signs on with the great P.T. Barnum and meets her future husband. This is where my opinion of Lavinia sours.

Lavinia approaches her marriage to Charles Stratton aka General Tom Thumb just as she would a business proposition. She has no affection toward him and she unceremoniously agrees to marry him because she knows it will improve revenue from their performances. Though Charles is caring and attentive, it is her cold-heartedness that is distasteful. Benjamin wrote Lavinia too pragmatically. She travels the world and has these amazing experiences, but she doesn't take time to describe these wonders, focusing instead on the mundane and domestic.

There were aspects of the book I liked. I enjoyed the way P.T. Barnum was portrayed as a trustworthy, loyal person despite his larger-than-life image. The "Intermissions" between chapters included news clips from the era such as Civil War updates, tidbits on Society, and innovations being made by people like Thomas Edison.
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21 of 22 people found the following review helpful By VINE VOICE on June 4, 2011
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
I selected this novel to read on the pure basis of Melanie Benjamin being the writer. I enjoyed her previous novel, Alice I Have Been, so even though I wasn't particularly interested in the subject matter of "The Autobiography of Mrs Tom Thumb", I figured Benjamin was good for a look.

And I wasn't disappointed. Ms Benjamin ably writes an 'autobiography' of the diminutive but not "small" Vinnie, the woman who marries the infamous Tom Thumb.

What I enjoyed most was that Vinnie, for all her attention getting size, had a loving childhood. She enjoyed her family but wanted something more. Today, that's par but in the mid-1800s for a woman, that is perhaps only best expressed in fiction and Benjamin is able to voice that desire in Vinnie in a plausible way.

Of course, the character of P.T. Barnum, the master of ceremonies, is very strong and the friendship between the two is fascinating. If Thumb was her actual husband, in this story, Barnum could be considered her intellectual soul mate.

But the part that surprised me the most was Vinnie's relationship with her sister, Minnie. It is wonderfully drawn and the reader feels the effects of that bond later in the story.

Overall, I felt like Benjamin really nailed the period of the time. I do have some minor quibbles but not enough of them to not recommend the book.

I enjoyed it as solid storytelling and I enjoyed Vinnie as a delightful, strong heroine.
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29 of 33 people found the following review helpful By Tara VINE VOICE on June 5, 2011
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
This is a novelization about Mrs. Tom Thumb who stood 2 feet, 8 inches tall. The novel is told in the first person, Vinnie's (Mrs. TT) and just as the title says, like an autobiography.

I was completely charmed by this little two foot narrator even though she isn't perfect. She is strong, determined, prideful and ashamed both, arrogant, selfish, and yet also extremely loving. Throughout the novel, she does wrong and she does right, just like everyone else and her narrative is very honest.

Branded one of "nature's occasional mistakes" when it became realized that she was never grow past the height of a two year old, Vinnie refuses to let her parents coddle and protect her. She demands to go to school. This is the strong and determined Vinnie I admired so. She proves to the town that "little people" have the same abilities to think and learn as every one else and not only excels in school, but becomes a teacher.

She's got a desire to be the center of attention, however, and just settling for being a school teacher in a tiny town isn't satisfying Vinnie. Here's the pride and arrogance. She joins a showboat touring the Mississippi and has an unsavory "manager." This part of her life occurs right before the Civil war breaks out so there is some interesting historical stuff merged in here. She also makes a wonderful friend in a giant woman. This is the nice side of Vinnie. I was very touched.

From the showboat, she goes to P.T. Barnum and here her character starts to change.. and not necessarily for the better. She agrees to a publicity stunt of a marriage, gets her also tiny sister involved in show business (NOT for the right reasons), and there's a baby mishap I don't want to reveal. Here, Vinnie gets selfish. It's all about Vinnie..
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More About the Author

Melanie Benjamin was born in Indianapolis, Indiana. An avid reader all her life--as a child, she was the proud winner, several years running, of the summer reading program at her local library--she still firmly believes that a lifetime of reading is the best education a writer can have.

While attending Indiana University--Purdue University at Indianapolis, Melanie performed in many community theater productions before meeting her husband, moving to the Chicago area and raising two sons. Writing was always beckoning, however, and soon she began writing for local magazines and newspapers before venturing into her first love, fiction.

By combining her passion for history and biography, she has found her niche writing historical fiction, concentrating on the "stories behind the stories." Her most recent novel, THE AVIATOR'S WIFE, a novel about Anne Morrow Lindbergh, is a New York Times, USA Today and Indiebound best seller. Her first historical novel, ALICE I HAVE BEEN, was a national bestseller; this was followed by the critically acclaimed THE AUTOBIOGRAPHY OF MRS. TOM THUMB.

She and her family still live in the Chicago area; when she's not writing, she's gardening, taking long walks, rooting for the Cubs--

And reading, of course.

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