Friday, March 7, 2014
THE MUSEUM OF EXTRAORDINARY THINGS (ALICE HOFFMAN)
Scribner|February 18, 2014|Hardcover|ISBN: 978-1-4516-9356-0
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 decade of the twentieth century.
Coralie Sardie is the daughter of the sinister impressario 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 milor's apprentice. When Eddie photographs the devastation on the streets of New York following the infamous Triangle Shirtwaist Factory fire, he becomes enbroiled in the suspicious mystery behind a young woman's disappearance and ignities 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.
THE MUSEUM OF EXTRAORDINARY THINGS is a partial historical account of the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory Fire and the Dreamland Fire that took place in New York in 1911. The author wrote within a historical context while using imaginary lives and fates.
The story is told alternately betwen Coralie Sardie and Eddie Cohen who eventually meet in the story.
Coralie lives an extremely sheltered life with her very strange and bizarre father. Her only saving grace is, Maureen, her caretaker/mother. Coralie's father owns and runs a literal freak show on Coney Island and is constantly struggling to keep his head above water. Along with a weird cast of characters in the museum, he also has Coralie performing in a tank as a mermaid.
Eddie Cohen is a Russian immigrant who is Jewish and is struggling as an apprentice tailor under the tutledge of his father.
I felt so sorry for Coralie who is constantly subjected to her father's abusive ways and he lords his power over her. She was born with webbed hands making him all the more intent on Coralie performing daily as the mermaid. He'd been training and grooming her for this role her whole life. I was so grateful for, Maureen, who at least showed some love toward Coralie. Without her, Coralie would have been completely alone in the world.
Eddie eventually gave up the tailoring business and became a photographer. He finds his father to be a weak man and a coward and completely distances himself from him. However, Eddie also has garnered a reputation as someone who can find missing people with relative ease which is how he eventually meets up with Coralie.
The prose in this novel is simply beautiful and I can see this becoming one of the biggest bestsellers of 2014.