The Museum of Extraordinary Things
My Rating / 3.5 Stars
This was my first Alice Hoffman read – I know, hard to believe! While I didn’t think this book was “Extraordinary” it certainly hasn’t turned me off picking up another Hoffman book to read.
The story, “Museum of Extraordinary Things” is connected by two great fires, the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory Fire and the Dreamland Fire in Coney Island, and the two young lovers from different backgrounds cultures finding each other in the melting pot of New York City.
Coralie Sardie is the daughter of the sinister entrepreneur behind “The Museum of Extraordinary Things”, a Coney Island boardwalk freak show. Born with a “deformity” herself, webbed fingers, Coralie’s father conditions his daughter to become an exceptional swimmer and ultimately a mermaid in his side show. Coralie’s father shelters her from the real world however he exposes her to some harsh reality. One night Coralie stumbles upon a young man taking pictures of moonlit trees in the woods off the Hudson River and from there their lives intertwine. Ezekiel Cohen (Eddie), a Russian immigrant, came to America with his father and they find themselves at odds with each other and Eddie runs away from his father’s Lower East Side Orthodox community and becomes a photographer. When Eddie photographs the devastation on the streets of New York following the infamous Triangle Shirtwaist Factory fire, he becomes embroiled in the suspicious mystery behind a young woman’s disappearance and ignites the heart of Coralie.
I liked the way the author tied the characters together through the two separate story lines of the two fires. However I felt at times there was too many characters that may have not been necessary, the hermit and Juliet Block are a few. I would have like to see more depth to the main characters such as Maureen and Sardie himself. (I must admit was confused about the trout I the bucket! LOL)
I didn’t the “love at first sight” between Eddie and Coralie – it was too easy. I never truly felt connected with the characters. While I found myself routing for Coralie and Eddie and some of the other minor characters, I never really felt that I knew them as well as I should have. I thought some of the antagonists, Sardie and the factory owners – came across as too one dimensional. If the characters had drawn me in more I probably would have rated the book higher!
I loved all the history in this novel, the descriptions of the sights of the boardwalk, Coney Island, the freak shows. Not being American, I had little knowledge of the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory Fire and the Dreamland Fire in Coney Island, however this book has made me want to learn and read more about those events (that is was best thing about this book.)