The Transformation of Bartholomew Fortuno

P.T. Barnum's 1865 American Museum, a display of human curiosities, serves as the stage for Ellen Bryson's novel The Transformation of Bartholomew Fortuno. The titular character is a gentleman billed as the Wolrd's Thinnest Man, and the story centers on him and his fellow performers Matina, the overweight woman; Alley, the strong man; and newcomer Iell Adams, the mysterious bearded lady.

This book is an interesting character drama as well as a richly detailed historical fiction. The story is about people's perceptions and self-truths, and as the title suggests, it is a novel about Bartholomew's personal transformation. Though he's always considered his thinness as a gift, the uniqueness of his talent and the specialness of all the performers is called into question in his mind.

Bryson weaves an intricate and interesting tale. Bartholomew's back story was reveled slowly in pieces throughout the book and it was an artful way to unveil his character. I also enjoyed how fact blended with fiction and actual events were woven into the narrative. For those that enjoy historical fiction of this time period or those interested in the cast and characters of Barnum's American Museum, The Transformation of Bartholomew Fortuno is definitely a book you won't want to miss.

2 Response to "The Transformation of Bartholomew Fortuno"

  1. Captain Nick Sparrow says:
    December 9, 2010 at 10:15 PM

    I have this book on my wishlist. Good to know you liked it!

  2. StephanieD says:
    December 10, 2010 at 2:52 PM

    I really enjoyed this peek into the "freak show" life. At times it almost seemed to veer into the magical, but stayed within the realm of odd and quirky.

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