She was only two-foot eight-inches tall, but her legend reaches out to us more than a century later. As a child, Mercy Lavinia “Vinnie” Bump was encouraged to live a life hidden away from the public. Instead, she reached out to the immortal impresario P. T. Barnum, married the tiny superstar General Tom Thumb in the wedding of the century, and transformed into the world’s most unexpected celebrity.Here, in Vinnie’s singular and spirited voice, is her amazing adventure—from a showboat “freak” revue where she endured jeering mobs to her fateful meeting with the two men who would change her life: P. T. Barnum and Charles Stratton, AKA Tom Thumb. Their wedding would captivate the nation, preempt coverage of the Civil War, and usher them into the White House and the company of presidents and queens. But Vinnie’s fame would also endanger the person she prized most: her similarly-sized sister, Minnie, a gentle soul unable to escape the glare of Vinnie’s spotlight.
Before reading this book I had very little knowledge of Mercy Lavinia Warren Bump Stratton but I had heard of her husband. After reading the book I have fallen in love with her.
Vinnie was born in 1841 in Massachusetts at a normal 6lbs. Her family soon noticed she wasn't a normal child. Around 2 years old she quit growing. At her full height she only stood 32" tall. She is never put off by her size, though. She dreams of striking out on her own and seeing the world. She tours with a group up and down the river and, although unsavory are her experiences during this time, she gets her first taste of fame. Then she writes a letter to a Mr. P.T. Barnum and her fate is set. The book chronicles the ups and downs of her life and her career including life in the limelight, her marriage to General Tom Thumb and her love for her little (both in age and in height) sister Minnie.
At times it is easy to forget that this is a novel not an actual autobiography. Ms. Benjamin has done her research and taken parts of it to weave this fictionalized version on Vinnie's life. It is a very entertaining story. Lavinia is a lovable character. She is strong willed and very intelligent but also, at times, can be arrogant and selfish. She is a walking contradiction and that is what made this story so real and likeable. Benjamin, also, captures the era perfectly. I could picture everything she was describing and felt as if I were transported back to the late 1800's. My biggest complaint about the book is when it ended. The author explains why she ended it when she did but I would have liked to see more of the characters life, such as her second marriage.
It is a well written and researched book and although I do have a few problems with the writing, such as repetitive terms and some big skips in time, I did enjoy this book a lot. It wasn't quite a "stay up way past my bedtime to read" book but pretty close.
4 out of 5 stars.
BUY IT HERE: The Autobiography of Mrs. Tom Thumb: A Novel