Tuesday, June 29, 2010

The Transformation of Bartholomew Fortuno by Ellen Bryson

The Transformation of Bartholomew Fortuno: A Novel
From Goodreads: Water for Elephants meets Geek Love in this riveting first novel, 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.
This book had me interested in what was going on right up to the end of the book. The main character and narrator, Bartholomew Fortuno believes that his extreme thinness as a gift, one that elevates him above the masses of "normal" people. His sense of who he is and how he has become so thin is a sense of pride for Bartholomew and it is reinforced by the reactions of the audience. When he meets another fellow performer, a new act in Barnum's museum, he finds his world changing. He starts to question things he never thought he'd ever question. So certain as he was to his world and the world around him. As he starts to venture outside his comfort zone, his perceptions start to change. As his perceptions change, his world starts to transform. Instead of gifts he sees the world is really of our own making. He also sees that the world changes no matter how hard we try to make our own world stagnant.

The mysteries of the self of each of the players in this book have you guessing as to who is hiding what and who is loyal to whom all set in a place that is at once open to the "normal" as it is closed. The climax of the book is not without it's surprises and it is quite shocking. The book in itself is a show and one that is well done and deserves it's own applause. The transformation is not of just one character, but of many. I recommend this book and give it 4 stars. This is one show you are invited to really know the characters.

I'd like to thank the Henry Holt and Company for providing me with the ARC.


  1. You had me at "Water for Elephants meets Geek Love".

    Have you read Geek Love?

    P.S.This one sounds muy interesting.

  2. I haven't read Geek Love, but like you, that name just made me go hmm... I may need to read that. :)

    It will be a part of Blogfest giveaway (hint). ;)

  3. I absolutely agree about how the book is a show itself, especially with the part leading to the climax. Bryson certainly kept the suspense building with that one, alternating between two characters' "reveals." Great review!

  4. I just heard about this one last week and am dying to read it!!! I added it to my wishlist right away! What a great informative review! You've got me even more intrigued now.

  5. Thanks Stephanies! :)

    @StephanieD I agree both reveals were surprising. I actually thought his was shocking. The other just made sense. :)


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