Monday, July 19, 2010

The Transformation of Bartholomew Fortuno - Ellen Bryson

Summary: An enchanting love story set in P.T. Barnum's American Museum in 1865 New York City.

Bartholomew Fortuno, the World's Thinnest Man, believes that his unusual body is a gift. Hired by none other than P. T. Barnum to work at his spectacular American Museum—a modern marvel of macabre displays, breathtaking theatrical performances, and live shows by Barnum's cast of freaks and oddities—Fortuno has reached the pinnacle of his career. But after a decade of constant work, he finds his sense of self, and his contentment within the walls of the museum, flagging. When a carriage pulls up outside the museum in the dead of night, bearing Barnum and a mysterious veiled woman—rumored to be a new performer—Fortuno's curiosity is piqued. And when Barnum asks Fortuno to follow her and report back on her whereabouts, his world is turned upside down. Why is Barnum so obsessed with this woman? Who is she, really? And why has she taken such a hold on the hearts of those around her?

Set in the New York of 1865, a time when carriages rattled down cobblestone streets, raucous bordellos near the docks thrived, and the country was mourning the death of President Lincoln, The Transformation of Bartholomew Fortuno is a moving novel about human appetites and longings. With pitch-perfect prose, Ellen Bryson explores what it means to be profoundly unique—and how the power of love can transcend even the greatest divisions.

summary from book and cover photo from, Book received free for the purpose of soliciting a review

My Review:
Having been compared to Water for Elephants, I was thrilled to receive The Transformation of Bartholomew Fortuno free for review. This is the tale of human curiosities living in Barnum's Museum in New York during 1865. From the fat lady to the strong man, this story is told through the eyes of the performers. The main character is Bartholomew, the worlds' thinnest man and this is his tale, as the title states, of the transformation of his life both past and present.

Having read both novels I would caution the comparison between this book and Water for Elephants. While entertaining in it's own way this novel lacks the depth Gruen developed within her pages. This story contains very little action yet remains interesting. It is primarily focused on Bartholomew's quest to discover if the life he leads is the one he chose or if it was chosen for him. It is only when the book, and Bartholomew, take a step back from the present to examine the past do we discover the answer to this dilemma. A touch of love and an arson mystery keep the book flowing.

Full of intrigue this novel is an entertaining mix of fact and fiction. The author has an unique way of making the reader connect with her characters. I read this book at a leisurely pace and each time I opened it I felt as if I were visiting with old friends. It was difficult to let them go at the end of the book and I have little doubt that I will again visit them in the future.

My Rating: 4 Stars

To sum it up: An entertaining and enjoyable read

1 comment:

Unknown said...

I agree that the comparison to Water for Elephants (and Geek Love as well) was unfortunate. It set me up to expect way too much from this book and I ended up being disappointed.


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