Sunday, 1 May 2016

Book Review: The Museum of Extraordinary Things by Alice Hoffman

Read: April 30 - May 1 Verdict: 4.5 Stars

The Museum of Extraordinary Things tells the dual tale of Coralie and Eddie. Coralie's father owns The Museum of Extraordinary Things, located near the historical Dreamland amusement park on Coney Island, Brooklyn, in 1911. Coralie was born with webbed fingers and has to pose as 'human mermaid' in the museum. Eddie is running away from an Orthodox Jewish lifestyle and is a photographer. Coralie and Eddie's lives become intertwined the same year as the Shirtwaist Factory Fire and the Dreamland Fire.

It took me a while to get into this book but once I did it was beautiful. The story is told perfectly in between these two major historical fires in New York in the same year and I really love how the fires symbolised something big in the character's lives (the factory fire was the start of Eddie's journey finding Hannah and, in a way, coming back to himself. The Dreamland fire was an escape for both Eddie and Coralie.) There was a real sense of magic in the ordinary in this writing, and the imagery and words were just beautiful. I loved how Coralie and Eddie's story came together. I love how they were struck dumb with love by each other the moment they saw each other (at different times) and I think this story proves that the concept of insta-love is believable and enjoyable when it's done well.

There was a perfect sense of atmosphere in this book. The amusement park on and off seasons, the build up of Dreamland and the tensions it caused the Professor. I loved Eddie's descriptions of the Yiddish community he grew up in and how he wandered back from time to time. It was a 1900's New York I haven't seen a lot of before in books and I loved it. I think people who know and have grown up in New York would love this book and there is a sense of history that's really interesting, even for someone like me who has never been.

I think this book would be perfect for fans of The Night Circus. It doesn't have the real magic like The Night Circus but there's something about it that has the same spark and feeling.

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