Tuesday 22 June 2010

ARC Review: The Transformation of Bartholomew Fortuno - Ellen Bryson

Genre: Historical Fiction
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.


  1. I'm glad you ended up liking this one as I have it to review as well. I love reading about odd characters!

  2. JoJo
    I do think you might like it too, it's macabre, odd, and I fell for it. But then I do fancy the weird ;)

  3. Sounds good. Putting it on my tbr list now. Great review!

  4. This sounds bizarre - in a good way!

  5. Sounds like an intriguing tale!

  6. It does sound fascinating, one of those stories I would get lost in.

  7. This looks really good! I love circus themed books, it must be that trying to fit in angle that they always have.

  8. Linda,
    I am sure you will enjoy it.

    I know right, bizzaro good ;)

    That it was for sure.

    I did get lost, didn't want to stop reading cos it just felt so easy to read on

    When he goes out he does try to fit in, because people are always taunting

  9. I have this in my pile as well... thanks for the extra link about the extra characters.

    I am sad there is no magical stuff in though :)

  10. I so want this book! I love strange things like this. I love looking at all these weird and wonderful people in the Guinness Book of Records. I don't like that they were made to be freaks though!

  11. Thanks for this review!

    Bill ;-)

    Author of "Back to the Homeplace"
    and "13 Ways to Tell Your Ancestor Stories"

  12. Never heard of it before, nothing strange there! It sounds really interesting, too bad there's no vampires or werewolves..lOL :)
    Glad you enjoyed the book.

  13. Popping in to say hi and see how the world is on your side of town!!! Hope all is going well honey!!!

    And what a great review!!!

  14. This one sounds very interesting and I've thought a time or two of picking it up. I just may!

  15. Shellie
    It was freaky to see some real people, so I liked those photos.
    Well no magic, but some things are sure hard to understand, I guess there is magic in that

    I used to love reading that too :D But do not worry some of these people were, well freaky for real

  16. Nina,
    Lol, sadly no, and not even the worlds hairiest man ;)

    Hi Cecile,
    Always enjoy when you come over. All is good! Taking it easy, watching Roswell.

    I really liked the way she wrote, I love good writing

  17. This sounds like a winner -- odd characters and beautiful language are right up my alley. If I can ever clear my shelves I'm adding this on my TBR list.

  18. This sounds so incredibly odd that I think I might like it!

  19. Lori
    Oh yes odd ones are the best :)
    btw, I am reading a certain book and I loved the beginning of said book

  20. I love reading about New York in another era. Fabulous review, hon! :)

  21. Janna
    New York is just even more lovely in another era, and just this era is a sure fav

  22. This sounds really, really different ... not quite sure if it's for me but hey I read horror novels so this shouldn't be outside my comfort zone. I guess my reading tastes are a little freaky & twisted LOL

  23. Teddy,
    Well yes they are strange, but not in a way. Like the fat lady, she is just that, fat. And other than that it's a tale about love and friendship

  24. I unfortunately couldn't get into this one. I marked it as a DNF. For some reason, the language didn't work for me. Sad, as the premise seemed so good!

  25. Books with odd characters and senarios always suck me in as well...

    This one does sound good..


  26. Aarti,
    I so wondered about that. For me the language was just, loved it. This was a language love book for me. But well it does not work for all, we both know that :)

  27. Nice review :) It made me wanna read the book and find out about the dungeon ...

  28. I've been curious about this one. Thanks for the great review. I will keep it in mind. :)

  29. Host,
    Dungeon, hm, do you mean the Haymore book? ;) Cos yes that was some dungeon

    She truly is a great writer, and this book was really good

  30. lol- You seem to be beating me to a lot of books. I have this one to review as well. I'm glad to hear you liked it. I picked it because I thought it did sound out of the ordinary. I'm looking forward to it.

  31. Darlene
    Lol, fun to hear that I beat someone to the punch for once :)
    And yes out of the ordinary it certainly was, I do think you'll like it



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