Uniquely Vinnie

22 08 2011

Review of “The Autobiography of Mrs. Tom Thumb” by Melanie Benjamin

Put simply, I loved this book. The reasons off the top of my head: an atypical protagonist whom I can identify with (for example, the logical mind and always seeking something indefinable), the historical aspects, the celebrity aspects, the circus, the shows, the traveling. Vinnie Warren (Mrs. Tom Thumb) faces the world largely on her own terms — and largely alone, or in a tiny group of people.

Although the word “autobiography” appears in the title, this book is not an autobiography. It is, however, based on real people and real events. Vinnie carries this book. She is miniature (don’t say “dwarf.” She hates that word). She has spirit, pluck and courage. She has, in many ways, the mind of a man in a woman’s body. She is a planner, pragmatic, calculating, but also curious and lively. Some reviewers have said she was a bit too “impersonal,” but I disagree. It is precisely this so-called “flaw” that makes me like her all the more. For example, she will not have sex because she is afraid of getting pregnant. She figures (and no wonder) that having a full-term baby will kill her. This, of course, affects her relationship with her husband and her outlook on life in general. I do, however, wonder if readers are supposed to get the impression from this book that Vinnie is asexual. She could very well have been. Those people who think she is too distant must not have cried as I did during a certain scene when someone very dear to Vinnie dies.

In any case, Vinnie wants to live, and live she does. She meets Queen Victoria and Abe Lincoln. The Astors attend her wedding. The queen and president send gifts. She travels to Egypt. To Australia. All over the world. Later in life, she becomes a countess. Sounds great, right? Well, she also has to deal with too-high stairs and beds, and clothes that don’t fit. She does not let any of that get her down, though. She strives on, even in the face of gloomy odds. Vinnie is uniquely Vinnie, and I love her.

Read this book!

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One response

22 08 2011
Doris Riley Short

Based on this review, I will read this book.

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