Alice Hoffman – The Museum of Extraordinary Things

Hoffman has this brilliant ability to create vivid worlds in her novels, and she does exactly that in The Museum of Extraordinary things. She gives the reader a beautifully written description of life on Coney Island in the early 20th Century. While reading you find yourself stood on the board walk with your senses alive, you can smell the hot dogs, hear the screams of carnival goers, you will find yourself so immersed in this world it will be hard to come back as the words roll off your tongue. However, this vivid world does come at an emotional cost. The story is based around two real fires Coney Island suffered in the early 1900’s. The first fire was the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory fire. Almost 150 people perished due to a locked door and malfunctioning sprinklers. The second fire was the Dreamland fire of 1911. It destroyed most of Coney Island. The screams of joy soon turn into screams of anguish and it is hard to read without being punched in the face by the fist of sorrow. this beautifully crafted world soon becomes a nightmare.

The story follows Coralie Sardie, her father owns The Museum of Extraordinary, a freak show on the Coney Island board walk. Coralie’s father shelters her from the world for most of her life, however, when she turns ten he exploits her as a mermaid and uses her deformity to attract the very world he shelters her from. The story also follows Eddie. Eddie moved to America with his religious father and moves away to pursue his own dreams as a photographer. After photographing the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory fire, he meets Coralie, a beautiful and interesting young woman. They both become tangled in a dark world as they investigate the disappearance of a woman.

The story is beautifully crafted, however it can be quite depressing. Along with the fires, there are parents who sell their children, animal cruelty and any characters that are good and honest people have a backstory that will break your heart. Hoffman’s skill of description will take you on a journey you will never forget. From the fires to the heartfelt love story between Eddie and Coralie, this emotional roller-coaster is hard to get out of. The Museum of Extraordinary Things is a beautiful, depressing and vivid story that will be hard for you to put down.


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