Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Book Review: The Museum of Extraordinary Things by Alice Hoffman

Title: The Museum of Extraordinary Things
Author: Alice Hoffman
Source: NetGalley

Goodreads Summary:

Mesmerizing and illuminating, Alice Hoffman's The Museum of Extraordinary Things is the story of an electric and impassioned love between two vastly different souls in New York during the volatile first decades of the twentieth century.
Coralie Sardie is the daughter of the sinister impresario behind The Museum of Extraordinary Things, a Coney Island boardwalk freak show that thrills the masses. 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 taking pictures of 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 a tailor's apprentice. 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.
With its colorful crowds of bootleggers, heiresses, thugs, and idealists, New York itself becomes a riveting character as Hoffman weaves her trademark 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 Alice Hoffman at her most spellbinding.

My thoughts:

I have loved Hoffman’s work for a very long time. She lyrically writes these beautiful stories, and up until this point, my favorite book she has written has been Here on Earth, which I think is loosely based on Wuthering Heights. It was so filled with emotion, and often I would finish one of her books and feel like I had just woken from a dream.

The Museum of Extraordinary Things has replaced Here on Earth at the top of my list. I feel Hoffman has outdone herself with this novel of love and loss and monsters and villains and unlikely heroes.

Where to begin? This is a world at the turn of the century. “Freak shows”, Coney Island, industrialization, political upheaval and civil rights, this is the time that Ezekiel “Eddie” Cohen and Coralie Sardie live in. They come from two different worlds, and without going into much background, Eddie works as a photographer, and lives his life freely, accompanied by his companion and friend, the pit bull Mitts. Coralie lives with her father and friend/servant Maureen in her home, the Museum of Extraordinary Things. Her father is a collector of living wonders: A wolf man, a butterfly girl, the fat woman, and so on. Coralie’s whole life is wrapped up in the Museum, and she lives an isolated life there. Her days are spent in a tank entertaining as the human mermaid; her nights spent swimming the Hudson River. 

I really don’t want to give anything away, but there is murder, mystery, love stories, truths revealed, references to Jane Eyre, redemption, and tragedy. Think Triangle Shirtwaist Fire and Dreamland fire. It was well-researched, well-thought out, well-written. Sensitive and beautiful, even in its tragedy. I had to skip a few pages at the end. It was actually more than I could handle in parts. I started skipping pages when I was reduced to sobbing at my desk in my office at work.

I think this book was amazing. I have been thinking about it for days, all the different details and intricacies and stories and symbolism. I hope you read it, and hope you enjoy it as much as I did.


  1. I am totally going to go for it! I saw it was getting very good ratings on Amazon. I don't always trust that, but with your review and Amazon, it's going to the top of my list. Yeah!

    1. I loved this book! I think you will like it too. :) I was totally sucked into this world that Hoffman imagined. :)

  2. I love it when an author's writing has a lyrical feel. I'm definitely going to try and read one of Alice Hoffman's novels - it seems like I couldn't go wrong with any of them from what I hear. I was looking forward to this review, thanks for sharing!
    Bits & Bobs

    1. I love her writing! There were a few of her books that are not my faves, but most of them I really enjoyed!

  3. I have read all of Ms. Hoffman's earlier books, but lost track and didn't read the last few years. However, I have this on my kindle now and can't wait to start it. It just sounded too good to pass up--thanks for a good review!

    1. I loved this book! I wasn't sure what I was going to think of it, but once I started reading I got sucked right in. :)

  4. I am not familiar with Hoffman's works, but this sounds amazing! Thanks for your great review.

  5. An imaginative plot; I like it! I will definitely have to look into Hoffman's books now.


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