Monday, 6 July 2015

The Museum of Extraordinary Things by Alice Hoffman

Alice Hoffman’s The Museum of Extraordinary Things is a love story, beset by tragedy and despair.

Set in Brooklyn, New York, near the beginning of the 20th Century, the social history, landscape and politics of the city feature strongly. The action itself is framed by two historical fires from 1911, the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory fire and the Coney Island Dreamland fire. It is these tragic events that entwine and cement the relationship between the two protagonists Coralie and Eddie.

Coralie and Eddie, who share the narration, are both motherless loners seeking an escape from their bleak existence. As an exceptional swimmer, no doubt aided by her webbed fingers, Coralie Sardie is forced by her father to perform as a mermaid alongside other side-show freaks in his Coney Island Museum of Extraordinary Things. Eddie Cohen, who has lived by his wits since leaving his father and the Orthodox Jewish community of his childhood behind, photographs the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory fire and becomes embroiled in the hunt for a missing woman.

As the lives and histories of these main characters are slowly revealed in the first half of the novel I found myself willing them to meet! It is around the midpoint of the book that the action really gets going and it is full steam ahead by the book’s conclusion.

As someone fascinated with curiosities and turn of the century history I liked The Museum of Extraordinary Things. I found the characters interesting and the story, though slow moving in the beginning, intriguing enough to keep me hooked. This was the first book I’ve read from Hoffman and I shall be reading more!

Posted by CP

Catalogue link: The Museum of Extraordinary Things

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