Friday, June 25, 2010

DNF: The Transformation of Bartholomew Fortuno

The Transformation of Bartholomew Fortuno
Well, I suppose it had to happen some time!  The Transformation of Bartholomew Fortuno, by Ellen Bryson, is the first book this year that I was unable to finish.  It saddens me because it sounds so promising!  And in the Author's Note, she mentions Angela Carter's Nights at the Circus, which receives unanimous praise (or at least praise from Ana and Claire).  But this one just didn't work for me.

Bartholomew Fortuno is an act at PT Barnum's New York City museum; he is the world's skinniest man and believes he and the other museum acts have great gifts to share with the world.  One night, a mysterious new act arrives and Barnum seems obsessed with knowing all about her movements.  He enlists Fortuno to keep tabs on the new woman, and also run some tasks for him in Chinatown.  And... that's all I know as I stopped reading right around that time.

I am not sure why this book didn't work for me.  It is historical fiction, involves circus freaks and has a mystery.  But from the start, I just wasn't interested, and I don't think this is a case of reading the book at the wrong time for me.  Bartholomew Fortuno's "gift" of weighing less than 70 pounds really disturbed me.  I am sure that this weight problem of his is a main tenet of the story and would be resolved later on, but I just couldn't come to grips with it.  Also, Fortuno wasn't a particularly scintillating character for me.  He was pretty boring and I didn't sympathize with him or his problems (which seemed overblown, in my opinion) much at all.  So it took very little time for me to feel completely disengaged, and with so many other books calling to me from the shelves, well... I decided this one just wasn't the book for me.

That said, though, I only got about 1/3rd of the way through it, so maybe it picks up after that!  If the premise sounds interesting to you, then you should give it a go and see what you make of it.  The book comes out in August.

This (non-)review is based on an advanced readers' edition.  I received this book for free to review.


  1. This is the next review book I have on my reading stack so I hope I have more luck that you did! That said, if I'm not engaging with it, I will probably quit sooner than you did -- knowing that it doesn't pick up.

  2. Not to spoil anything, but his weight gets an explanation. Then I really got it.

    I saw this as a DFN on goodreads and didn't get it, so good to see you explain :)

    For me the language and story just, well it made me wanna read on. Sure there were plenty of disturbing things, but had to look past the freaks.

  3. Anonymous6/25/2010

    I'm sorry that you couldn't finish this. I have read some very positive reviews of this book. However, I cannot say that the synopsys particularly appeals to me.

  4. Now I am stuck. Blodeued loved it and you didn't finish it. I trust both your judgements, so may just have to give it a go.

  5. I have this theory that circus books are among the very most difficult books to pull off. All the ones I have read (for adults - Noel Streatfeild's Circus Shoes was lovely) are either quite creepy or quite depressing, or both. I always love the idea of a circus book, but it rarely pays off.

  6. Oh, that's not so good to hear. I also have this book for review but I haven't started it yet. I hope I like it better! At least now I know to lower my expectations.

  7. I have to admit, even though you didn't like or finish this, it sounds fascinating! I think I'll have to add it to my TBR.

  8. Your not the first to feel this way about this particular book, and I also believe, not the first to have left it unfinished. It doesn't really sound like something I would like either. I am not a huge fan of circus stories in general, and haven't really read many of them. I do have a couple on my shelf though! Sorry that this was not a book that you could enjoy. It does sound rather odd!

  9. Kristen- I hope you like it more, too!

    Blodeuedd- I am not sure what it was for me. I did start reading it on a flight, so maybe that had something to do with my never engaging with the language.

    Iris- I have seen a lot of positive reviews, too! Maybe I read a different book? :-)

    Vivienne- I always feel when in doubt, the safer route is to just try it out.

    Jenny- I think circus books must be really difficult, too! I am a bit worried about Nights at the Circus now...

    Meghan- I hope you like it better, too!

    Amanda- It DOES sound fascinating, doesn't it?

    Zibilee- Glad I'm not the only one!

  10. Anonymous6/25/2010

    I am sorry this one wasn't to your liking! We can't enjoy every book ;)

  11. Yours is the second so-so review I've read for this. I do like the whole idea of circus-basede books, but I think I'll probably give it a pass.

  12. I'd probably have to pass on this one. The image of a 70 pound man would be too disturbing to me.

  13. oh no.....I was hoping this one would be memorable.

  14. Anonymous6/26/2010

    I'm with Jenny...circus books can be difficult. I loved Geek Love, but it's a straight up weird book. Usually though, it's hard to get me interested in the circus.

  15. I admire you for being able to stop a book you're not loving even if it is a review book. I feel obligated to read all review books no matter how awful they are or what a bad fit they are for me. It probably isn't doing anyone any favors though.

    The whole skinny things is kind of creepy. If it was a woman, we'd be all over this in outrage.

  16. That's a great record! I had my first DNF probably the first week of the year. lol

    Sorry this one didn't pan out. For some reason I usually avoid anything dealing with the circus like the plague, so I probablyw wouldn't even attempt it.

  17. Lola- You're so right, we can't!

    Memory- I think you've read so many good books lately, that I wouldn't want to endanger your streak :-)

    Kathleen- Yes, it's so scary!

    Diane- Well, it was memorable to Blodeuedd :-)

    softdrink- I have Geek Love to read, but hopefully I like that one more! It seems the circus has been a very big theme in books that I've acquired more recently.

    jenners- Oh, I never hold myself to that. I think if you don't like a book, you should TRY to finish it, but that doesn't mean you should force it down. At least, in my opinion!

    Andi- It seems like a lot of people do that for circus books!

  18. Only your first book this year to abandon - that's great. I think I have two so far and do not read as much as you do.

    I do have it on my list but am seeing that it may not be what I was hoping for.

    The cover is gorgeous, I do have to say.

  19. Anonymous6/29/2010

    Sometimes it's really hard to keep reading a book if you have no connection to the story or a character. This one doesn't stand out to me at all, so I think I'll pass.

    I had my first DNF of the year really early on, and I hope it's the only one.


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