When we first meet Bartholomew Fortuno, he is looking down at a mysterious new arrival to the Barnum's American Museum. Nobody knows who she is or where she comes from, but Barnum is going to great lengths to hide her presence until it is time for her debut. When it comes, it shakes up many of the lives within the Museum, for the new woman is Iell, a beautiful bearded lady. No stranger to curiosities of nature (Bartholomew is the World's Thinnest Man) he takes instantly to the exotic allure of Iell, who turns his world upside down. When the Museum begins to suffer small acts of vandalism, everyone is a suspect. Bartholomew must rely on his instincts to sort through the secrets and temptations, and will end up learning about himself along the way.
Those who know me will tell you that few literary topics please me more than circus stories, so it will certainly not be surprising to them that I was completely absorbed in Bartholomew's story. My favorite part of this book was how utterly atmospheric is was. Bryson captured nineteenth century New York City and circus life beautifully. I loved the glimpse into the social life and living style of Barnum's circus sideshow acts. Bartholomew is sometimes philosophical, sometimes naive man, and it was frustrating for me to be stuck with only what he knew. I wanted to get inside the heads of other characters! The mystery of Iell and added trouble of Mrs. Barnum kept me turning pages late into the night. The Transformation of Bartholomew Fortuno was a very pleasurable read that is sure to appeal to fans of Water for Elephants.
Overall Rating: 5 Stars