The Transformation of Bartholomew Fortuno takes place in the days of P.T. Barnum’s American Museum, which is where Fortuno works as The World’s Thinnest Man. There is camaraderie amongst the cast of curiosities until Barnum starts changing things. First Fortuno witnesses Barnum sneaking in a woman who turns out to be Iell, a beautiful woman who just happens to have beard; Fortuno becomes obsessed with her despite his relationship with Matina, the fat woman. Relations become further strained when Barnum enlists a maid to play the part of an exotic woman, which offends Fortuno’s sensibilities as he is highly opposed to tricking the audience. There’s also a problem with fires being set at the museum causing everyone to be suspicious of each other.
Ellen Bryson’s debut is an interesting story in regards to how the curiosities were treated both by Barnum and the general public. I enjoyed how Bryson brought the reader into the head of a curiosity by making Fortuno the narrator although he was not the most sympathetic of narrators given his high opinion of himself.
Review copy provided by the publisher, Henry Holt.