21 July 2010
Book Review: Transformation of Bartholomew Fortuno
Author: Ellen Bryson
Publisher: Henry Holt
Release Date: 22 June 2010
Date Finished: 19 July 2010
Buy | Borrow | Accept | Avoid
Challenges: 100+ Reading Challenge, Reading Resolutions, Hogwarts Reading Challenge,
The Short and Sweet of It
P.T. Barnum's Living Curiosities inhabit their own world, defined by the limits of the American Museum where they live. Bartholomew Fortuno, toted as the Living Skeleton or the World's Thinnest Man, finds his world beginning to change when a new curiosity joins the show. While the premise really grabbed me, the book ended up falling a bit flat.
A Bit of a Ramble
The world of the circus, traveling show, freak show, etc. fascinates me. I find appealing the life of the nomad, removed from "normal" society in lifestyle and possibly appearance, so the premise of this book really caught my eye. Bryson attempts to reconstruct the world of the Living Curiosities in Barnum's museum circa 1865. Within this world, Bartholomew contentedly displays his thinness, for him a gift he has been given to awaken self-revelation in those who view him. One night, he sees a veiled woman, a new act, and he becomes obsessed with her.
The rest of the book revolves around his obsession: how it affects his current friendships, his job, his self-awareness, etc. While I found the setting and the characters fascinating, the plot didn't quite cut it for me. I didn't fully believe the obsession, err..I'm sorry, the love story, and I thought the inclusion of Bartholomew's history with his mother undeveloped. Most of the "mystery" elements were easy enough to guess, and the lack of awareness on the part of Bartholomew was frustrating.
Overall I wanted more time with the eccentric characters and more...well more. It is so strange how sometimes a book only 100 pages can have such action and such depth, and then a chunkster can feel superficial; unfortunately that is how I felt with this book. For 330+ pages, not a lot happens and I never felt like I really got to know any of the characters. And man oh lordy did I want to.
On a side note, I highly urge you to go explore the Lost Museum, a website dedicated to Barnum's American Museum. The photo to the right is of Isaac Sprague, the thin man who inspired Bartholomew.
This Book Around the Web
If I've missed your review, let me know!
Fyrefly's Book Blog; Life and Times of a New New Yorker; Booklust; Book Magic; Reading My Life Away; words, words, words;