The Museum of Extraordinary Things was not a good fit for me. It was recommended to me by a coworker, and when she described the side-show museum, I immediately wanted to read it. I love books about the circus, and a museum of oddities is kind of like a circus, right? Sadly, this book was too character-driven for my taste. There just wasn’t enough plot.
The book jumps back and forth between past and present and between two main characters. Coralie is living on Coney Island with her father. She has been appearing as the Mermaid Girl in his museum since she was ten years old. Eddie is a photographer in New York City investigating a missing girl after the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory fire. They both had rough upbringings, and eventually they meet.
There was a little hook with a scheme Coralie’s father was planning that kept me reading, but I almost gave up on this book several times. I just didn’t care enough about either character. Every time there seemed to be some plot progression, it would jump back to the past again.
Also, this book was strangely written in various tenses. First person for each character during their flashbacks, and third person for the present day story.
There were some minor characters who I found interesting, but none of them redeemed this book in my mind. It just wasn’t for me.
Rating: 2 Stars
The Museum of Extraordinary Things
Simon and Schuster
February 18, 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.