Book Review – The Museum of Extraordinary Things by Alice Hoffman
December 22, 2014
From the beloved, bestselling author of The Dovekeepers, a mesmerizing new novel about the electric and impassioned love between two vastly different souls in New York during the volatile first decades of the twentieth century.Coney Island: Coralie Sardie is the daughter of the impresario behind The Museum of Extraordinary Things, a boardwalk freak show that amazes and stimulates the crowds. An exceptional swimmer, Coralie appears as the Mermaid in her father’s “museum,” alongside performers like the Wolfman, the Butterfly Girl, and a one-hundred-year-old turtle. One night Coralie stumbles upon a striking young man photographing moonlit trees in the woods off the Hudson River.
The dashing photographer is Eddie Cohen, a Russian immigrant who has run away from his father’s Lower East Side Orthodox community and his job as an apprentice tailor. When Eddie captures with his camera the devastation on the streets of New York following the infamous Triangle Shirtwaist Factory fire, he becomes embroiled in the mystery behind a young woman’s disappearance.
New York itself becomes a riveting character as Hoffman weaves her magic, romance, and masterful storytelling to unite Coralie and Eddie in a sizzling, tender, and moving story of young love in tumultuous times. The Museum of Extraordinary Things is Hoffman at her most spellbinding.
I used to love Alice Hoffman, and I would eagerly await her new releases. Then, I read a book of hers that I didn’t particularly enjoy (and it’s been so long that I don’t even remember which book it was), and she fell off of my radar. I was browsing the new releases at my library recently when I came across her newest book The Museum of Extraordinary Things. Hoffman is now back on my radar, and I need to go back and read some of the books I’ve missed.
The Museum of Extraordinary Things is such a unique story with wonderfully unique characters. I would be so curious to know where the idea for this novel came from! Hoffman does an excellent job of developing the characters, and creating strong feelings towards the characters for the reader. Whether she wants you to love or hate a character, you will based on the feelings she evokes with her writing. Hoffman develops several strong characters that will stay with you long after you have finished reading the story.
I also adored the setting – Coney Island early in the 20th Century. I knew very little about life in New York City and Coney Island during that time. You will learn more about the lives of immigrants to our country as well as the changes that were occurring in NYC. I also had never heard of the Shirtwaist Factory Fire, and Hoffman does an excellent job of incorporating significant parts of history throughout the novel.
I really enjoyed the characters and setting of this book, and I hope you do to! Let me know what you think if you have read it!