Published: June 22nd 2010 Henry Holt
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?
I have mentioned that I like books that are a little strange, out of the ordinary. Here there is no magic or things like that. But the characters in this book, it is those that are out of the ordinary.
Bartholomew (let's just call him Bart cos I will never be able to spell that) lives in New York and is apart of P.T Barnum's museum. He sits in a room or he is on stage showing how freakishly thin he is. People come to marvel at him and be disgusted. He has his friends among fellow "freaks" but one day he is awakened and nothing will be the same.
I was not sure if I liked Bart at first, he is such a proud man. He is something special, and he wants to teach people about how things are. He also looks down upon fellow freaks. He is the highest up, natural born curiosities of nature. Then there are the exotic ones, and lowest are the gaffs. People who fake their freakish nature, like the woman who gave birth to dead babyrats. But underneath it all he is human, and he does struggle with things and that is what I learn after reading a while.
His friends at the place is the fat lady Matina, with whom he has a special bond and they are good friends. Emma, the giant, the rubberman, Alley the strong man, and others that come and go. Like the new act, a woman in a veil and Bart becomes fascinated by her. Who is she? What is her relationship with Bartum? The more he wants to know the deeper he falls. There are many powers of will at this museum. Who the veiled lady is, that you have to find out for yourself.
What was it then that caught my interest? I do feel that it was Bryson's language, it just flowed, what else can I say, she is a great author and because of how she wrote this book I would love to read more by her. She wove a fantastic story, that in reality was just plain truth. But it felt like so much more. The freaks made this story, normal humans that in some cases were made into something else, or just were different. It was a story of friendship, love and most importantly finding yourself. Because in the end Bart is a lost soul.
That people actually paid to see these persons is rather horrifying, after reading for some time I forgot about that and was just swept away by the story. But now when thinking about it, then I am again struck by it. And some of these not normal people, were just that, perfectly normal with a little make-up on.
A fascinating tale about a "freakshow" at the time of Lincoln's assassination, New York in a different era. The perfect setting to this story. This is the author's first novel, and she had done well. I am sure we will hear more from her in the future.
Blodeuedd's Cover Corner: Suits the theme.
Reason for reading: Copy from the publisher.
Final thoughts: A little something extra and this historical novel becomes this fascinating story that I could not stop reading. 4.
Check out the extra material on the publisher's website
Images of real characters from Barnum's museum and more.