2011: 107. The Autobiography of Mrs. Tom Thumb

"I suppose it would be fashionable to admit to some reservations as I undertake to write the History of My Life."

The Autobiography of Mrs. Tom Thumb, by Melanie Benjamin

      This is a fictionalized version of the life story of Mercy Lavinia Warren, "Mrs. Tom Thumb."  It was interesting, because she had an interesting life - imagine being born as a dwarf (midget? little person? Please know that I don't mean to intend - I'm not sure what the proper term is), in the 1800's, and having to deal with that.  That alone is interesting enough to be the subject of a book.  And on top of that, she lived a fascinating life - becoming part of Phineas Barnum's side show, marrying his other famous dwarf, "General Tom Thumb" and seeing the world in that capacity.  

     Benjamin imagines Minnie as smart, capable, and wanting more - that her desire to see the world drives her into everything she does - leaving her family, her marriage with "Tom," who she sees as basically a child (and an opportunity), her drive to keep touring - even her betrayel of her simple sister (also a dwarf) who she drags into the spotlight, despite her sister's simple desires to stay home, and fear of the outside book.  

    It's a reasonably interesting book.  I do have a hard time with these fictionalized versions of real people's lives - it seems somewhat intrusive and presumptuous to create a whole inner life for a real person who actually existed.  I mean, who knows what Mercy Warren was really like, and who is Benjamin to rewrite her life according to her own whims.  Why not do a "based upon" type story, rather than appropriating someone else's life? It seems, well, disrespectful.  But if that doesn't bother you, it's not a bad book.  And it is interesting.  Who doesn't want to hear about the life of famous circus little people?

Categories:  Fiction, Library Book.

© Carrie Dunsmore 2017