Review: The Museum of Extraordinary Things by Alice Hoffman

Coney Island: Coralie Sardie is the daughter of the sinister impresario behind The Museum of Extraordinary Things, a boardwalk freak show that thrills the masses. An exceptional swimmer, Coralie appears as the Mermaid in her father’s ‘museum.’ 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 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.

This was a very enjoyable read.

Set in 1911 New York against a backdrop of real historical events – the fires at Triangle Shirtwaist Factory and Dreamland – which are both handled with humanity, encompassing the horror of the events and public feeling at the time – particularly in the case of the factory fire. 

Among this historical backdrop we are introduced to Coralie who’s father, Professor Sardie owns a Museum of Extraordinary Things.

From unusual people to a one hundred year old tortoise Coralie is surrounded by the out of the ordinary. Forced by her father at a young age to endure ice baths and learn to hold her breath underwater, Coralie becomes a Museum exhibit herself – her webbed fingers and learnt abilities making her a ‘mermaid’. 

Slowly Coralie learns that not everything in the Museum is as it seems and indeed to the reader Professor Sardie becomes more and more unlikeable as the story progresses. 

Parallel to Coralie’s tale we have that of Eddie. Eddie is a Russian immigrant who turns away from the Orthodox community he was raised in, becoming first a street child used to ‘find’ people and later a photographer. 

His reputation for finding people leads him to become involved in the search for a missing young woman and subsequently into crossing paths with Coralie.

Ultimately a story about following your dreams and becoming your own person this book had me gripped from start to finish.

4 thoughts on “Review: The Museum of Extraordinary Things by Alice Hoffman

  1. Beautiful review! I adore Practical Magic, so I’ve been wanting to read more Alice Hoffman. This one sounds like a wonderful read!

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