Tuesday, July 26, 2011

New Today: The Autobiography of Mrs. Tom Thumb by Melanie Benjamin

I was pleasantly surprised by the new book by the author of 2010’s Alice I Have Been. Not that this earlier work wasn’t terrific: it was. But in some ways and at first glance, it seemed as though The Autobiography of Mrs. Tom Thumb (Delacorte) was going to be too contrived with a lot of potential of being a lame-duck effort to do something similar-but-different from that the Alice book, which was very successful. Delightfully, then, I’m please to report I was wrong.

The Autobiography of Mrs. Tom Thumb takes up the voice Lavinia Mercy Warren Bump, for most of her life known as Mrs. Tom Thumb. Once again, Benjamin handles the 19th century material as though she’s seeing it all with her own eyes. Or, of course, more properly, Vinnie’s and it’s exciting -- and sometimes sad -- to spend time looking through the eyes of the woman who was at one time one of the most famous in America. While at the same time, she was necessarily always somewhat outside the mainstream.

It is not, of course, an autobiography. It is fiction, though admittedly of the skilled variety. Still it’s easy to lose yourself in Benjamin’s storytelling and imagine that this is the autobiography that history tells us that 32-inch tall Vinnie planned but never wrote. History as it might have been. Enchanting enough to lose yourself in. There are worse things for a book to be. Whatever can Benjamin have in mind next? ◊

Monica Stark is a contributing editor to January Magazine. She currently makes her home on a liveaboard boat somewhere in the North Pacific.

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Anonymous Mike said...

The author most of talent to make you feel like it's a autobiography when in fact it's fiction.

Monday, October 1, 2012 at 7:55:00 AM PDT  

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