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The Museum of Extraordinary Things: A Novel

The Museum of Extraordinary Things: A Novel

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The Museum of Extraordinary Things: A Novel

4/5 (247 valutazioni)
420 pagine
7 ore
Feb 18, 2014

Nota del redattore

Magic, romance & nostalgia...

Suffused with her beloved sense of magic, romance, and nostalgia, Alice Hoffman’s latest bestseller transports you to 1920s Coney Island, where a ‘mermaid’ in a freak show and a young photographer fall deeply in love.


The “spellbinding” (People, 4 stars), New York Times bestseller from the author of The Dovekeepers: an extraordinary novel about an electric and impassioned love affair—“an enchanting love story rich with history and a sense of place” (USA TODAY).

Coralie Sardie is the daughter of the sinister impresario behind The Museum of Extraordinary Things, a Coney Island freak show that thrills the masses. An exceptional swimmer, Coralie appears as the Mermaid in her father’s “museum,” alongside performers like the Wolfman and the Butterfly Girl. 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 community and his job as a tailor’s apprentice. When Eddie photographs the infamous Triangle Shirtwaist Factory fire, he becomes embroiled in the mystery behind a young woman’s disappearance. And he ignites the heart of Coralie.

Alice Hoffman weaves her trademark magic, romance, and masterful storytelling to unite Coralie and Eddie in a tender and moving story of young love in tumultuous times. The Museum of Extraordinary Things is, “a lavish tale about strange yet sympathetic people” (The New York Times Book Review).
Feb 18, 2014

Informazioni sull'autore

Alice Hoffman was born in New York City and grew up on Long Island. She wrote her first novel, Property Of, while studying creative writing at Stanford University, and since then has published more than thirty books for readers of all ages, including the recent New York Times bestsellers The Museum of Extraordinary Things and The Dovekeepers. Two of her novels, Practical Magic and Aquamarine, have been made into films, and Here on Earth was an Oprah’s Book Club choice. All told, Hoffman’s work has been published in more than twenty languages and one hundred foreign editions. She lives outside of Boston.

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  • A lifetime is a lifetime whether it lasts one night or a hundred years.

  • Love happens in such a way, Maureen told me. It walks up to you, and when it does, you need to recognize it for what it is and, perhaps more important, for what it might become.

  • Yet I knew that a life spent inside a museum is not a life like any other.

  • It made me wonder how far the waking world was from the world of dreams.

  • Hochman had been right, the past was what we carried with us, threaded to the future, and we decided whether to keep it close or let it go. Fate was both what we were given and what we made for ourselves.

Anteprima del libro

The Museum of Extraordinary Things - Alice Hoffman



the world in a globe

yOU WOULD THINK it would be impossible to find anything new in the world, creatures no man has ever seen before, one-of-a-kind oddities in which nature has taken a backseat to the coursing pulse of the fantastical and the marvelous. I can tell you with certainty that such things exist, for beneath the water there are beasts as huge as elephants with hundreds of legs, and in the skies, rocks thrown alit from the heavens burn through the bright air and fall to earth. There are men with such odd characteristics they must hide their faces in order to pass through the streets unmolested, and women who have such peculiar features they live in rooms without mirrors. My father kept me away from such anomalies when I was young, though I lived above the exhibition that he owned in Coney Island, the Museum of Extraordinary Things. Our house was divided into two distinct sections; half we lived in, the other half housed the exhibitions. In this way, my father never had to leave what he loved best in the world. He had added on to the original house, built in 1862, the year the Coney Island and Brooklyn Railroad began the first horse-drawn carriage line to our city. My father created the large hall in which to display the living wonders he employed, all of whom performed unusual acts or were born with curious attributes that made others willing to pay to see them.

My father was both a scientist and a magician, but he declared that it was in literature wherein we discovered our truest natures. When I was only a child he gave me the poet Whitman to read, along with the plays of Shakespeare. In such great works I found enlightenment and came to understand that everything God creates is a miracle, individually and unto itself. A rose is the pinnacle of beauty, but no more so than the exhibits in my father’s museum, each artfully arranged in a wash of formaldehyde inside a large glass container. The displays my father presented were unique in all the world: the preserved body of a perfectly formed infant without eyes, unborn monkey twins holding hands, a tiny snow-white alligator with enormous jaws. I often sat upon the stairs and strained to catch a glimpse of such marvels through the dark. I believed that each remarkable creature had been touched by God’s hand, and that anything singular was an amazement to humankind, a hymn to our maker.

When I needed to go through the museum to the small wood-paneled room where my father kept his library, so that he might read to me, he would blindfold me so I wouldn’t be shocked by the shelves of curiosities that brought throngs of customers through the doors, especially in the summertime, when the beaches and the grander parks were filled with crowds from Manhattan, who came by carriage and ferry, day-trip steamship or streetcar. But the blindfold my father used was made of thin muslin, and I could see through the fabric if I kept my eyes wide. There before me were the many treasures my father had collected over the years: the hand with eight fingers, the human skull with horns, the preserved remains of a scarlet-colored long-legged bird called a spoonbill, rocks veined with luminous markings that glowed yellow in the dark, as if stars themselves had been trapped inside stone. I was fascinated by all that was strange: the jaw of an ancient elephant called a mastodon and the shoes of a giant found in the mountains of Switzerland. Though these exhibits made my skin prickle with fear, I felt at home among such things. Yet I knew that a life spent inside a museum is not a life like any other. Sometimes I had dreams in which the jars broke and the floor was awash with a murky green mixture of water and salt and formaldehyde. When I woke from such nightmares, the hem of my nightgown would be soaking wet. It made me wonder how far the waking world was from the world of dreams.

My mother died of influenza when I was only an infant, and although I never knew her, whenever I dreamed of terrible, monstrous creatures and awoke shivering and crying in my bed, I wished I had a mother who loved me. I always hoped my father would sing me to sleep, and treat me as if I were a treasure, as valued as the museum exhibits he often paid huge sums to buy, but he was too busy and preoccupied, and I understood his life’s work was what mattered most. I was a dutiful daughter, at least until I reached a certain age. I was not allowed to play with other children, who would not have understood where I lived or how I’d been raised, nor could I go upon the streets of Brooklyn on my own, where there were men who were waiting to molest innocent girls like me.

Long ago what the Indians called Narrioch was a deserted land, used in winter for grazing cattle and horses and oxen. The Dutch referred to it as Konijn Eylandt, Rabbit Island, and had little interest in its sandy shores. Now there were those who said Coney Island had become a vile place, much like Sodom, where people thought only of pleasure. Some communities, like Brighton Beach and Manhattan Beach, where the millionaires built their estates, had their own trains with paid conductors to keep out the riffraff. Trains for the masses left from the Brooklyn Bridge Terminal and took little more than half an hour to reach the beachfront communities. The subway was being built, to begin running beneath the East River in 1908, so that more and more throngs would be able to leave the brutal heat of Manhattan in the summertime. The island was a place of contradiction, stretching from the wicked areas where men were alternately entertained and cheated in houses of ill repute and saloons, to the iron pavilions and piers where the great John Philip Sousa had brought his orchestra to play beneath the stars in the year I was born. Coney Island was, above all else, a place of dreams, with amusements like no others, rides that defied the rules of gravity, concerts and games of chance, ballrooms with so many electric lights they glowed as if on fire. It was here that there had once been a hotel in the shape of an elephant, which proudly stood 162 feet high until it burned to the ground, here the world’s first roller coaster, the Switchback Railway, gave birth to more and more elaborate and wilder rides.

The great parks were the Steeplechase and Luna Park, whose star attraction, the famous horse King, dove from a high platform into a pool of water. On Surf Avenue was the aptly named Dreamland, which was being built and would soon rise across the street, so that we could see its towers from our garden path. There were hundreds of other attractions along Surf Avenue, up to Ocean Parkway, so many entertainments I didn’t know how people chose. For me the most beautiful constructions were the carousels, with their magical bejeweled carved animals, many created by Jewish craftsmen from the Ukraine. The El Dorado, which was being installed at the foot of Dreamland Park, was a true amazement, three-tiered and teeming with animals of every sort. My favorites were the tigers, so fierce their green eyes sparked with an inner light, and, of course, the horses with their manes flying out behind them, so real I imagined that if I were ever allowed onto one, I might ride away and never return.

Electricity was everywhere, snaking through Brooklyn, turning night into day. Its power was evident in a showing made by electrocuting a poor elephant named Topsy, who had turned on a cruel, abusive trainer. I was not yet ten when Edison planned to prove that his form of electricity was safe, while declaring that his rival, Westinghouse, had produced something that was a danger to the world. If Westinghouse’s method could kill a pachyderm, what might it do to the common man? I happened to be there on that day, walking home from the market with our housekeeper, Maureen. There was a huge, feverish crowd gathered, all waiting to see the execution, though it was January and the chill was everywhere.

Keep walking, Maureen said, not breaking her stride, pulling me along by my arm. She had on a wool coat and a green felt hat, her most prized possession, bought from a famed milliner on Twenty-third Street in Manhattan. She was clearly disgusted by the bloodthirsty atmosphere. People will disappoint you with their cruelty every time.

I wasn’t so sure Maureen was right, for there was compassion to be found among the crowd as well. I had spied a girl on a bench with her mother. She was staring at poor Topsy and crying. She appeared to be keeping a vigil, a soulful little angel with a fierce expression. I, myself, did not dare to show my fury or indulge in my true emotions. I wished I might have sat beside this other girl, and held her hand, and had her as my friend, but I was forced away from the dreadful scene. In truth, I never had a friend of my own age, though I longed for one.

All the same, I loved Brooklyn and the magic it contained. The city was my school, for although compulsory education laws had gone into effect in 1894, no one enforced them, and it was easy enough to escape public education. My father, for instance, sent a note to the local school board stating I was disabled, and this was accepted without requirement of any further proof. Coney Island then was my classroom, and it was a wondrous one. The parks were made of papier-mâché, steel, and electricity, and their glow could be seen for miles, as though our city was a fairyland. Another girl in my constrained circumstances might have made a ladder out of strips torn from a quilt, or formed a rope fashioned of her own braided hair so she might let herself out the window and experience the enchantment of the shore. But whenever I had such disobedient thoughts, I would close my eyes and tell myself I was ungrateful. I was convinced that my mother, were she still alive, would be disappointed in me if I failed to do as I was told.

My father’s museum employed a dozen or more living players during the season. Each summer the acts of wonder performed in the exhibition hall several times a day, in the afternoon and in the evenings, each displaying his or her own rare qualities. I was not allowed to speak to them, though I longed to hear the stories of their lives and learn how they came to be in Brooklyn. I was too young, my father said. Children under the age of ten were not allowed inside the museum, owing to their impressionable natures. My father included me in this delicate group. If one of the wonders was to pass I was to lower my eyes, count to fifty, and pretend that person didn’t exist. They came and went over the years, some returning for more seasons, others vanishing without a word. I never got to know the Siamese twins who were mirror images of each other, their complexions veined with pallor, or the man with a pointed head, who drowsed between his performances, or the woman who grew her hair so long she could step on it. They all left before I could speak my first words. My memories were of glances, for such people were never gruesome to me, they were unique and fascinating, and terribly brave in the ways they revealed their most secret selves.

Despite my father’s rules, as I grew older I would peer down from my window in the early mornings, when the employees arrived in the summer light, many wearing cloaks despite the mild weather, to ensure they would not be gawked at, perhaps even beaten, on their way to their employment. My father called them wonders, but to the world they were freaks. They hid their features so that there would be no stones flung, no sheriff’s men called in, no children crying out in terror and surprise. In the streets of New York they were considered abominations, and because there were no laws to protect them, they were often ill used. I hoped that on our porch, beneath the shade of the pear tree, they would find some peace.

My father had come to this country from France. He called himself Professor Sardie, though that was not in fact his name. When I asked what his given name had been, he said it was nobody’s business. We all have secrets, he’d told me often enough, nodding at my gloved hands.

I believed my father to be a wise and brilliant man, as I believed Brooklyn to be a place not unlike heaven, where miracles were wrought. The Professor had principles that others might easily call strange, his own personal philosophy of health and well-being. He had been pulled away from magic by science, which he considered far more wondrous than card tricks and sleight of hand. This was why he had become a collector of the rare and unusual, and why he so strictly oversaw the personal details of our lives. Fish was a part of our daily nourishment, for my father believed that we took on the attributes of our diet, and he made certain I ate a meal of fish every day so my constitution might echo the abilities of these creatures. We bathed in ice water, good for the skin and inner organs. My father had a breathing tube constructed so that I could remain soaking underwater in the claw-foot tub, and soon my baths lasted an hour or more. I had only to take a puff of air in order to remain beneath the surface. I felt comfortable in this element, a sort of girlfish, and soon I didn’t feel the cold as others did, becoming more and more accustomed to temperatures that would chill others to the bone.

In the summer my father and I swam in the sea together each night, braving the waves until November, when the tides became too frigid. Several times we nearly reached Dead Horse Bay, more than five miles away, a far journey for even the most experienced swimmer. We continued an exercise routine all through the winter so that we might increase our breathing capacity, sprinting along the shore. Superior health calls for superior action, my father assured me. He believed running would maintain our health and vigor when it was too cold to swim. We trotted along the shore in the evenings, our skins shimmering with sweat, ignoring people in hats and overcoats who laughed at us and shouted out the same half-baked joke over and over again: What are you running from? You, my father would mutter. Fools not worth listening to, he told me.

Sometimes it would snow, but we would run despite the weather, for our regimen was strict. All the same, on snowy nights I would lag behind so I might appreciate the beauty of the beach. I would reach into the snow-dotted water. The frozen shore made me think of diamonds. I was enchanted by these evenings. The ebb and flow at the shore was bone white, asparkle. My breath came out in a fog and rose into the milky sky. Snow fell on my eyelashes, and all of Brooklyn turned white, a world in a globe. Every snowflake that I caught was a miracle unlike any other.

I had long black hair that I wore braided, and I possessed a serious and quiet demeanor. I understood my place in the world and was grateful to be in Brooklyn, my home and the city that Whitman himself had loved so well. I was well spoken and looked older than my age. Because of my serious nature, few would guess I was not yet ten. My father preferred that I wear black, even in the summertime. He told me that in the village in France where he’d grown up, all the girls did so. I suppose my mother, long gone, had dressed in this fashion as a young girl, when my father had first fallen in love with her. Perhaps he was reminded of her when I donned a black dress that resembled the one she wore. I was nothing like my mother, however. I’d been told she was a great beauty, with pale honey-colored hair and a calm disposition. I was dark and plain. When I looked at the ugly twisted cactus my father kept in our parlor, I thought I more likely resembled this plant, with its gray ropy stems. My father swore it bloomed once a year with one glorious blossom, but I was always asleep on those occasions, and I didn’t quite believe him.

Although I was shy, I did have a curious side, even though I had been told a dozen times over that curiosity could be a girl’s ruination. I wondered if I had inherited this single trait from my mother. Our housekeeper, Maureen Higgins, who had all but raised me, had warned me often enough that I should keep my thoughts simple and not ask too many questions or allow my mind to wander. And yet Maureen herself had a dreamy look when she instructed me, which led me to presume that she didn’t follow her own dictates. When Maureen began to allow me to run errands and help with the shopping, I meandered through Brooklyn, as far as Brighton Beach, little over a mile away. I liked to sit by the docks and listen to the fishermen, despite the rough language they used, for they spoke of their travels across the world when I had never even been as far as Manhattan, though it was easy enough to walk across the Brooklyn Bridge or the newer, gleaming Williamsburg Bridge.

Though I had an inquisitive soul, I was always obedient when it came to the Professor’s rules. My father insisted I wear white cotton gloves in the summer and a creamy kid leather pair when the chill set in. I tolerated this rule and did as I was told, even though the gloves felt scratchy on summer days and in winter chafed and left red marks on my skin. My hands had suffered a deformity at birth, and I understood that my father did not wish me to be thought of with the disdain that greeted the living wonders he employed.

Our housekeeper was my only connection to the outside world. An Irish woman of no more than thirty, Maureen had once had a boyfriend who had burned her face with sulfuric acid in a fit of jealous rage. I didn’t care that she was marked by scars. Maureen had seen to my upbringing ever since I was an infant. She’d been my only company, and I adored her, even though I knew my father thought her to be uneducated and not worth speaking to about issues of the mind. He preferred her to wear a gray dress and a white apron, a proper maid’s uniform. My father paid Maureen’s rent in a rooming house near the docks, a cheap and unpleasant place, she always said, that was not for the likes of me. I never knew where she went after washing up our dinner plates, for she was quick to reach for her coat and slip out the door, and I hadn’t the courage to run after her.

Maureen was smart and able, despite my father’s opinion, and she often treated me as an equal. I liked to sit on the back steps beside her as we took our lunch together. She fixed lettuce and butter sandwiches to share with me. I thought she was quite beautiful, despite her scars.

She was the one person other than my father who knew of my deformity, and she concocted a mixture of aloe and mint to rub between my fingers. I was grateful for both her kindness and her matter-of-fact air. It fixes most things, she said knowingly of the salve. Except for my face.

Unfortunately, the elixir did nothing for me either, yet I grew accustomed to its scent and used it nightly. Maureen smoked cigarettes in the backyard although my father had expressly forbidden her to do so. Only whores had such habits, he said, and besides, he had a tremendous dread of fire, for a single spark could ignite the entire museum and we would lose everything. He stood on the roof with buckets of water during summer storms, keeping a close watch on the movement of the lightning when it split through the sky. His collection was irreplaceable. In the off months, when the museum was shuttered, he covered the glass cases with white linen, as if putting the mummified creatures on display to bed for a long winter’s rest. He was surprisingly gentle at these times. I’ll sneak you into the exhibits if you want, Maureen offered every now and then, though she was well aware that children under the age of ten were banned from entrance.

I think I’ll wait, I remarked when Maureen suggested I break my father’s rules and enter the museum. I was not the rebel I later came to be. I was nine and three quarters at the time and hadn’t much longer to wait before I was old enough to gain entrance to the museum. I wore my black dress and buttoned leather boots. My black stockings were made of wool, but I never complained when they itched. If anyone had asked what was the first word I would use to describe myself, I would have immediately answered well behaved. But of course, few people know their true natures at such a tender age.

Waiters wait and doers don’t. Maureen’s skin was mottled as if she were half in shadow, half in sunlight. At certain hours of the day, noon, for instance, when the sun broke through, she looked illuminated, as if the beauty inside her was rising up through her ravaged complexion. She gazed at me with sympathy. Afraid your daddy will make you pay if you misbehave?

I was, of course. I’d seen my father enraged when a player came to work late or broke one of his rules, smoking cigars in public, for instance, or forming a romantic entanglement with a member of the audience. He’d taken his cane to a fellow from England who called himself the King of the Ducks, for this gentleman had flesh in the shape of wings instead of arms. My father told the King never to return, all because he suspected him of sipping from a flask of whiskey during museum hours. It was unfair, of course, considering how much my father liked his rum.

I didn’t need to explain my hesitation to our housekeeper.

I don’t blame you. Maureen sighed. Her breath smelled like mint and rosemary, her favorite kitchen seasonings. He’d probably have you running up and down the beach for a whole night without a bit of rest to punish you. You’d be limping at the end of it, panting for water, and he might not forgive you even then. He’s a serious man, and serious men have serious rules. If you defy them, there will be consequences.

Was your boyfriend serious? I dared to ask. It was a topic Maureen usually did not speak of.

Hell, yes, she said.

I loved the way she used the word hell; it came naturally to her, the way it did to the men who worked on the docks loading herring and bluefish.

What was his name?

Son of shit, Maureen said evenly.

She always made me laugh.

Son of a dog’s mother, she went on, and I laughed again, which egged her on. Son of Satan. I loved it when she grinned. Son of hell.

We both stopped laughing then. I understood what she meant. He’d been a bad man. I’d seen such men on Surf Avenue and along the pier. Con artists and thieves, the sort a girl learned to stay away from early on. Coney Island was full of them, and everyone knew the police often looked the other way when paid off by these crooks. A fiver would get you pretty much anything you wanted on the streets of Brooklyn, and there were girls my age who were bought and sold for much less. Some bad fellows looked friendly, others looked like demons. Maureen always told me you couldn’t judge a book by its cover, but if anyone should ever call me into an alleyway, I was to run, no matter what gifts I might be offered. If the need arose, I could kick a fellow in his knees or in his private parts, and that would most likely force such an individual to keep his distance.

You know what love is? Maureen said to me that day. Usually she went about her work and was somewhat tight-lipped regarding the larger issues of life. Now she became more open than usual, perhaps more like the person she’d been before she’d been scarred.

I swung my legs and shrugged. I didn’t know if I was old enough to discuss such matters. Maureen tenderly ran a hand through my long hair as she dropped her hard veneer.

It’s what you least expect.

WHEN I TURNED ten my father called me to him. My birthday was in March, and I never knew what to expect from that month. Sometimes it snowed on my birthday, other times there’d be the green haze of spring. I don’t remember the weather on this particular occasion, during the year of 1903. I was too excited at having my father focus on me, a circumstance that was rare due to the hold his work had over him. Sometimes he labored in the cellar all night long and didn’t get to his bed until dawn. And so it was a special event for him to turn his attentions to me. When I approached him shyly, he told me that in good time every secret must be shared and every miracle called into question. He made a grand event of my entrance into the museum. We went onto the path outside so we might go through the front door, as customers did. My father wore a black coat with tails, very formal, and a top hat he’d brought from France. He had sharp all-seeing blue eyes and white hair and he spoke with an accent. He had set globes of electric lights outside the entranceway to the museum. Sphinx moths floated near, drawn to the bright flares, and I ignored an urge to catch one in my cupped hands. I was wearing my black dress and a strand of pearls my mother had left me. I treasured them, but now my father told me to remove the necklace. He said I should leave off my gloves as well, which surprised me. I didn’t like to look at my hands.

It was midnight, an hour when the neighborhood was quiet, as it was the off-season. In the summers there were crowds all night long, and great waves of excitement and noise in the air. But those hordes of pleasure seekers would not arrive until the end of May and would continue on until the new Mardi Gras celebration to be held in September, a wild gathering that would become a yearly event where those celebrating lost all control, and the police Strong-arm Squad would have to be called out to beat them back to their senses. The construction in Dreamland was going ahead full steam as the owners built more and more rides and exhibitions that would rival any entertainment palace in the world and be even more impressive than Luna Park. Unlike the other amusement parks, which some of the wealthier residents of the island called vulgar and pandering, this one would be as splendid as any entertainment found in the capitals of Europe, the buildings all starkly white, as if made for the angels. Because it would be west of us on Surf Avenue, my father feared it would put us out of business. At night we could hear the roaring of the lions and tigers in their cages, attractions being trained to be more like dogs or house cats than wild beasts. In this quiet time of the year, seagulls and terns gathered at twilight in huge calling flocks above the park. The steel skeletons of the rides still being constructed were silver in the dark. I imagined they shivered in anticipation of all they would become.

My father opened the curtains made of heavy plum-colored damask that hung across the entranceway to the Museum of Extraordinary Things. He said I was the evening’s only guest, then bowed and gestured for me to step over the threshold. I went inside for the first time. Though I had managed to spy a few rows of the exhibits from occasionally sneaking a look, the contents of most had been a bit cloudy from my vantage point and I could never distinguish a green viper from a poisonous tree frog. Tonight the glass jars glittered. There was the sweet scent of camphor. I had looked forward to this day for so long, but now I was faint with nerves and could hardly take it all in.

There was a hired man who often came to care for the living beasts. I’d observed him arriving in a horse-drawn hansom carriage delivering crates of food for the mysterious inhabitants of the museum. A whirl of incredible creatures was before me as I stood there: a dragon lizard who flared his scarlet throat, an enormous tortoise who seemed like a monster of the deep, red-throated hummingbirds that were let out of their cages on leashes made of string. When I looked past this dizzying array, I spied my father’s birthday surprise decorated with blue silk ribbons and garlands of paper stars. It stood in a place of honor: a large tank of water. On the bottom there were shells gathered from all over the world, from the Indian Ocean to the China Sea. I did not need my father to tell me what would be displayed, for there was the sign he’d commissioned an expert craftsman to fashion out of chestnut wood and hand-paint in gold leaf.

the human mermaid

Beneath that title was carved one word alone, my name, Coralie.

I did not need further instructions. I understood that all of my life had been mere practice for this very moment. Without being asked, I slipped off my shoes.

I knew how to swim.

MARCH 1911

IF CORALIE SARDIE had lived another life, in another time and place, she might have become a champion swimmer, a lauded athlete with garlands crowning her head, surrounded by crowds who pleaded for her autograph after she crossed the Channel from England to France or circled Manhattan Island. Instead, she swam in the Hudson as dusk crossed the horizon, making certain to keep to the shadows. If she were a fish, she would have been an eel, a dark flash secreted within the even darker water, a lone creature set on a journey northward, unable to stop or rest until her destination had been reached. On this raw night, she stepped out of the river when she could swim no more, shaking from exertion. The relay swimming title had just been granted to a fellow from the New York Athletic Club who’d been dubbed the Human Fish, but Coralie could have beat his time with ease. She climbed onto a deserted bank under a sky swirling with stars and stood ankle deep in the mud. She wrung out her hair, a smile playing at her blue lips. This had been her longest swim thus far. She’d lasted ninety minutes in the frigid river, a personal record. A wind had picked up and the weather was raw; few swimmers would have been able to tolerate the cold rushing water. All the same, Coralie was no champion; she had no clock and no admirers. She wore men’s clothes, which made her movements easier, fitted trousers and a white shirt tucked into her waistband. Before dressing she coated her limbs with bear grease mixed with digitalis, a concoction meant to act as a stimulant and keep her warm. Still, despite this elixir and her training to withstand inhuman circumstances, she shuddered with the cold.

As she forged her way through a tangle of reeds, Coralie realized the rising spring tide had carried her off course. She was much farther north than she’d anticipated and had arrived in the no-man’s-land of upper Manhattan, where the Dutch had once farmed enormous tracts in the wetlands. Not far to the east, there were still small villages along the Harlem River, inhabited by communities of black Americans and Irish immigrants who had settled on that river’s sandy coves, their houses hidden from view by enormous beech and tulip trees that were more than three hundred years old.

Unlike most rivers, the current in the Hudson ran in two directions, pushed north by the Atlantic Ocean, turning into rivulets and streams and meeting with the Harlem River before the combined waterways receded south to the harbor. After a winter of heavy squalls and snowfalls, the Hudson was moving much faster than expected. Coralie’s father’s calculations had therefore proved wrong. The Professor was waiting nearly three miles to the south, alongside the liveryman and his carriage, ready to greet Coralie with a wool blanket and the flask of whiskey he vowed would keep her from catching a chill in her lungs.

After eight years of performances, Coralie’s fame had waned. The public’s hunger was for curiosities that had never been seen before, not for creatures they’d become accustomed to. Barnum and Bailey’s circus was opening in Madison Square Garden. It was the same location where Barnum had first exhibited his spectacles when the area was occupied by the Great Roman Hippodrome, an arena without a roof or heat. People were entranced by the prancing steeds, the spectacle and wonder of acrobats and trained seals, the thundering Roman chariot race that drove dust into the air. Barnum had begun his career with a museum in lower Manhattan, showing off taxidermy and fossils, along with questionable exhibits such as the Feejee Mermaid, a monkey’s torso with a fish tail attached. It was that swindler Barnum whom Professor Sardie wished to surpass, for he felt himself to be a true man of science, whereas Barnum was nothing more than a charlatan. Yet Barnum was an American hero, and the Professor’s fortunes were failing.

Coralie had been a star attraction as a child in Coney Island, but she was a child no more. The tail she wore was made of thin strips of bamboo that were flexible, covered by silk that had been treated with paraffin and copper sulfate so they would be waterproof. The breathing tube attached to the side of the tank could not be seen by onlookers. When she turned to flash her blue tail, she gulped in air from the tube. Her father suspected that the crowds had caught on to their tricks and asked that she use the tube as infrequently as possible. Her childhood training of remaining underwater in a tub had increased her breathing capacity far beyond the abilities of a normal woman. Sometimes she felt she barely needed air. At night she slipped into the tub in the washroom for comfort, settling beneath the warm, soapy water, a balm to her cold flesh and pale hands, which were dipped into blue dye every morning.

Between her fingers there was a birth defect, a thin webbing that the indigo tint emphasized. This was the reason she wore gloves in public, though her abnormality rarely hindered her in practical matters. Still, she despised herself because of this single flaw. She had often imagined taking a pair of scissors to her flesh so she might snip through the pale skin. The one time she’d attempted to

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  • (4/5)
    I found the book a bit slow going and even repetitious, but there were several things I liked.First, I like the way Ms. Hoffman uses historical events like the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory fire to build her story around. Her description of the fire was so well done and moving -- I felt I was there.I liked Ed' story better than the main story of Cora. I was frustrated that it took so long for them to meet! Ed's relationship with his father is well developed and heartbreaking.I like the way Ms. Hoffman turns things inside out: We have a "wolf man" (an extremely hairy person) who is taught to growl as part of his employment in a freak show, but is actually a very gentle and cultured man. And we have a real wolf who has been domesticated and behaves like a dog. Many things that appear to be magical are not -- the private investigator "seer" who employs young boys to investigate on his behalf; the exhibits in the title museum that are fabricated. And things portrayed as normal turn magical and both Cora and her nanny find love.
  • (4/5)
    This book kept my interest. There were too many coincidences and unbelievable events, but I found both the history and the characters very interesting.
  • (4/5)
    Decent summer read, loved the history here, New York City, Coney Island portrayed as the city is urbanizing. Many true incidents and facts enhance the story.
  • (4/5)
    Finished this one tonight. I very much enjoyed it. Hoffman's writing is beautiful and descriptive and her storytelling is at once thoughtful and exciting. The era in which the story is set is fascinating and I'm interested to learn more about the historical events depicted in it. While there is pain and tragedy throughout the tale, there is also hope and the triumph of love. Good entertainment!This was my first time reading Alice Hoffman and it certainly won't be the last. I look forward to seeing what other stories she has told.
  • (3/5)
    A book with something to say it just doesn't say it very well. Not well written and filled with clichés, story is pretty good though.
  • (4/5)
    Both my wife and one of my daughters recommended that I read this book and for that I thank them. I almost gave it five stars, but one minor irritant led to its downgrading, of which more anon. The book paints a series of memorable characters from New York and Coney Island in the early days of the twentieth century and sets them against a backdrop of real events in a deftly orchestrated plot. At times the writing is quite stunning, particularly when Ezekiel / Eddie is first drawn to photography and in the sequence immediately after the Triangle Fire. I heartily recommend this book to everyone. (But what of my irritation? Could he really have taken as many photographs with the equipment available to him at the time - he actually bemoans the fact that he cannot afford a "flexible film" camera - this just kept niggling at me as I read it!)
  • (3/5)
    Coralie Sardie is a sheltered young girl growing up in a freak show which her father owns and runs. Eventually her path crosses with Eddie Cohen's, a Russian immigrant and a photographer.
  • (5/5)
    This was a beautiful book and one of my favourites I've read this year. It's a darkly, pensive tale about deceit, disillusionment, loss and love, but it's more than that too. Just read it, it's beautiful!
  • (4/5)
    THE MUSEUM OF EXTRAORDINARY THINGS is an epic tale of love, loss, and the astounding city of New York in the early 20th century. The two main protagonists are Coralie, a girl with a curious deformity who becomes an attraction at her father’s museum of oddities, and Eddie, a photographer who’s abandoned his Jewish Orthodox faith and makes a living documenting the wonders and tragedies of the city. Eventually their paths cross when they become wrapped up in the mystery surrounding a missing garment worker.Like all of Ms. Hoffman’s books I’ve read, the prose is gorgeous and mesmerizing, and her vivid descriptions make the time, place, and characters very real. The author includes her trademark magical realism and symbolism – fire, ice, water, birds, trees, the color red – which is always a delight to read. The actual historical events that were woven into the story were eye-opening to say the least. The pacing was a bit slow in spots and some scenes tended to go on too long for my taste. Still, I was intrigued by the mystery and was impatiently waiting to see how Eddie and Coralie would connect.I listened to the audiobook which was performed by Judith Light (narrator), Grace Gummer (Coralie), and Zach Appelman (Eddie). All three performances were good, though their readings lacked a lot of emotion. I’m glad that the first person POVs of Coralie and Eddie where read by different narrators. It worked well for this story.Source: Review copy from the publisher
  • (4/5)
    a fabulous read, beautiful prose
  • (4/5)
    I haven't read Alice Hoffman for a while, some of her books go way off my normal path of reading but she has always been an exceptional writer and this book delivered some of her best. The story line was different from any other and she kept the pace clipping along. Of course her characters were very well thought out and for something unusual this is the book to read.
  • (4/5)
    Interesting story with a rich sense of the historical scene in NYC in the early 1900's. SRH
  • (4/5)
    Interesting story with a rich sense of the historical time period in NYC in the early 1900's.
  • (4/5)
    I have enjoyed Alice Hoffman’s historical fiction novels. She picks a pivotal time in history, develops wonderfully complex characters who might live ordinary lives, but due to circumstances of the time, rise to the occasion and are heroic, not necessarily accomplishing epic feats, but are heroic in their ability to survive a horrific or brutal situation. The setting for The Museum of Extraordinary Things is perfect for an Alice Hoffman tale – New York City in the early 20th century. It is a tumultuous time period in history; unions are just beginning to make their appearance to protest abject conditions in the city’s factories and crowds head out to Coney Island to escape their humdrum lives and find some excitement. Coralie Sardie has been born with a defect – the webbing on her hands has not separated leaving her fingers joined together. Her shyster father takes advantage of her deformity, and with the aid of a pump and some rubber tubing, and puts her on display in an aquarium tank as part of his Coney Island attraction, the Museum of Extraordinary Things. Coralie is the Living Mermaid and people pay admission to stare at her and other oddities like the Wolfman or the Butterfly Girl. In New York City, Eddie Cohen, is a young man who has run away from his Russian Orthodox Jewish roots to become a photographer. He goes around the city capturing images when he stumbles on one of the biggest tragedies of the decade, the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory Fire. His photographs of dead girls who jumped to escape the flames lead him to investigate the mystery behind a missing girl – an employee of the factory, but whose body was not found. With her vivid descriptions and a touch of magical realism, Hoffman weaves together an amazing story, filled with images of a bustling city. Some of the parts of the book, like the disaster of the Triangle Shirtwaist Fire were so descriptive that I felt I was watching the tragedy unfold. Girls crying from upper windows, pleading for help and then jumping to their deaths – the images were devastating and I felt like a voyeur – not wanting to know, but unable to stop listening to the audiobook. As an audiobook, this was an enjoyable performance. The narration was performed by three narrators, Judith Light, Grace Gummer, and Zach Appelman, to accompany the different points of view of this story – Coralie, Eddie, and the omniscient narrator. All three gave a strong performance and having different narrators was useful for the transition. Although there were all the ingredients for an all time favorite, somehow, at the end of the story, I didn’t feel satisfied. I loved the descriptions, and various components of the story, but at the end, I didn’t feel that same sense of satisfaction that I’ve had with other Hoffman novels. I don’t know if it’s that I didn’t like the main characters enough, or I was hoping for some heroic ending. I would still recommend this book just based on its historic fiction component and the amazing descriptions of a colorful era.
  • (4/5)
    Great little story, well written. Would recommend to those tat like her style of writing .
  • (4/5)
    The Good Stuff Hoffman is truly a poetic and "extraordinary" writer. She is an exceptional storyteller who creates worlds full of ordinary, yet magical characters who stay with you long after you close the book An interesting history lesson woven through the story, yet it never feels like a lesson Loved how Hoffman created characters that others would consider as one dimensional circus freaks, and made them the flesh and blood people that they are My favorites scenes were the ones between Eddie and Beck Each and every character feels real - even the dad who thoroughly disgusted me Exceptional historical research obviously was put into this, Hoffman makes the period come alive and makes you want to learn more - but again it never feels like a history lesson, she just makes history come alive Made me think of Jane Eyre in an entirely new way First chapter hooked me in right away The Not so Good Stuff A tad repetitive about key plot points The scene involving the fire and the animals at Dreamland was very disturbing for this sensitive reader (not a bad thing, just a heads up for other animal lovers like myself). Not to mention the other fire (I know I mentioned the one with the animals before the one with humans - I feel slightly bad too) Insta Love (again not a really bad thing, just a tad irritating) - I still totally cheered for them to have a happy ending Favorite Quotes/Passages "In such great works I found enlightenment and came to understand that everything God creates is a miracle, individually and unto itself.""But the newspapers want violence, retribution, crime, sin. In short, it's hell they're asking for.""If we had no hurt and no sin to speak of, we'd be angels, and angels can't love the way men and women do."4.25 Dewey'sI received this from Simon and Schuster in exchange for an honest review
  • (4/5)
    In the early 20th Century, New York was growing at an incredible rate. Migrants were flooding the city, housing was cramped and transitory, nature was being overwhelmed, workplaces were dangerous and soul destroying, and people wanted and needed distractions from their miserable lives. Coney Island was just the place, and The Museum of Extraordinary Things was a major drawcard. Professor Sardie is a sinister character. He collects people and things to exhibit in his Museum and one of those exhibits includes his daughter Coralie, born with webbed fingers and a rather amazing ability to hold her breath for long periods of time and to swim great distances in all weathers. Coralie is controlled completely by her father but finds her time in the water of the Hudson River an escape and a release from her confinement. It is on one of these night swims that she first meets Eddie Cohen, photographer. Eddie’s story now runs parallel to Coralie’s, the narrative swapping between the two. Eddie has disappointed his Orthodox father by throwing away his religion and his job as a tailor to take up the new art of photography. Eddie is also known for his ability to find people and things, so when a young girl goes missing after the Triangle Shirtwaist Fire, where he photographed the terror of the day, her father asks him to find her. During this search, he finds Coralie once again.Hoffman’s writing is lyrical, full of poetic images, metaphors and symbols and while the shifting points of view were a little jarring at first, they grew easier to absorb as the story and the characters developed. However, I found the conclusion to this story a little harsh. It was abrupt, graphic and perhaps, a little bit convenient. But that aside, I did enjoy this book.
  • (3/5)
    I enjoyed "The Museum of Extraordinary Things" for the blending of the history with Alice Hoffman's magical inclinations. Portions were uncomfortable to read but that was due to horrific situations rather than anything unreadable about Ms. Hoffman's writing. Despite being prolific, she continues to come out with interesting, well-researched and written novels.
  • (3/5)
    I really wanted to like this book more than I did. It has a lot of elements that I normally love in a novel: early 20th century New York, historical events, a museum of wonders (where everything, including the person who runs it, it not what it seems), True Love.However, I found myself finishing the book just to say that I did. Don't get me wrong, Alice Hoffman's description of the horrific Triangle Shirtwaist and Dreamland fires, as well as her sympathetic and empathetic descriptions of the terrible conditions in which the poor lived and worked were fantastic, but having all of that as the backdrop for the ho-hum love story between Coralie (the deformed daughter of the sadistic museum owner) and Eddie (the hardened immigrant photographer who abandoned his Jewish faith) did not work for me. I would rather have gotten a story that focused specifically on the two tragedies, with other characters as the central characters. To me, it felt like Hoffman wanted to write a story about the injustices suffered by the poor and immigrant peoples of new York before the time of labor laws and workers' right (and the lack of women's rights), and also an epic love story full of strange oddities...I don't know. I can't really put my finger on it. I just know that after the fifth passage describing how once you find your one tru epic love, there is nothing you can do but follow it and let yourself go and blah blah blah. I'm sure many people will enjoy this book (and judging by the other reviews, they do), which is totally cool. I guess I was just expecting something else. Hoffman included a "For Further Reading" list at the end of the book, which includes books on the historical events of the time, so maybe I'll pick one of those up instead.Despite my gripes, I still enjoyed portions of the book, and Hoffman's secondary characters were very interesting. Her descriptions of the city and the changing times were also very well-written, and it makes me excited to go to New York this summer :)
  • (5/5)
    Well, its Alice Hoffman. So, I pretty much expected it to be an excellent read. And she didn't let me down. Once again she has taken a set of rather unusual characters and made them a part of your inner circle. Even though the story revolves around their "oddness", it becomes only relevant to the story and ceases to be noticed in the image of the character. The Museum of Extraordinary Things is two stories. First, Coralie, the girl with the webbed hands whose father, the proprietor of the museum, trains her to be able to spend huge amounts of time underwater and bills her as a human mermaid. The museum is a freak show of midgets and Siamese twins and a wolfman, plus bottles and jars and displays of curiosities. Her father dominates and controls her while she seeks tiny rebellions and dreams to find a place in the world outside of the sideshow.The second is Eddie, Russian immigrant and street detective who finds lost people. Then one day, he finds Levy and learns to see the world through the eyes of a camera lens. The world becomes a different place when he holds the camera and he tells the tales of his city with his images. The story circles around a real point in history as the two characters slowly start to spin in each other's direction. Alice weaves a spellbinding tale of these two unfortunate souls and paints a landscape that will haunt your mind for a long time after. She's a master storyteller and every tale seems to find a previously untried direction, unlike many writers who find a path and stick with it. Alice likes taking the side roads. I'm guessing because she knows some of the most interesting things can be found around their bends. Pick up The Museum of Extraordinary Things and breath in the scent of a bygone era dipped generously in a skillful fable.
  • (5/5)
    I bought this book, never having read Alice Hoffman, and not 100% sure if I would like it. I am not a fan of sideshow type books, however I could not put it down. I just loved it, and kept reading and reading till I finished it. In fact I don't want to lend it to anyone just in case I don't get it back. I agree with mountie9 that the animals caught in the fire scenes were disturbing as I am a vegan, and a huge animal lover. I can't read any books that have obvious themes of animal suffering or cruelty or even just an animal dying in it. I found the book to contain a lot of history, which I also loved. I am now reading "The third angel" and have already borrowed all the Alice Hoffman books that were "in" at the library....I am loving the Third Angel so far as well. I am now a true blue Alice Hoffman fan. I may buy all her books anyway to keep the Museum of Extraordinary Things company on the shelves.
  • (4/5)
    “The past was what we carried with us, threaded to the future, and we decided whether to keep it close or let it go. Fate was both what we were given and what we made for ourselves.” Ms. Hoffman is the queen of character development! The first half of the novel is nothing but history and back story of the characters. The plot/mystery didn’t start until the book was over halfway done. After that, it was a frenzy and blur of page turning. I definitely recommend the book. It’s an interesting novel, that develops slowly and beautifully merges mystery and coming of age themes. Plus, a little romance to keep things even more interesting.
  • (5/5)
    This is a lovely book. It starts out in a creepy museum where a young girl is growing up, and where she is being groomed by the man she calls her father to be a sideshow exhibit, a real-life mermaid. She is kept isolated from the world as much as possible, and learns about the outside world mostly through the many bizarre things displayed in the museum. This story takes place in the years leading up to the terrible fire at the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory, where many women and girls were burned alive because they were locked into the room where they worked. As the girl in the museum grows older, she encounters a young man and falls in love from afar. The young man works as a sort of private detective, finding lost things and people, and when he is hired to find a girl who is missing after the fire, his investigation leads him to the girl in the museum.

    While this book is built around a love story, it is historical and literary fiction, far more than a romance (though my misguided local library added a 'romance' sticker to the spine of the copy I read). This novel weaves together the love story with the story of the museum and of Coney Island more generally, along with a thread about the Jewish community in New York City, and of course the thread about the Triangle Fire. If you like historical fiction, or if you enjoyed Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children and/or The Night Circus, you'll probably enjoy this book too.
  • (4/5)
    This book was unlike anything I've ever read before... It was dark and twisted, with a subtle romance and a thick mysterious plot. While it wasn't at all what I expected... It was really good in an eerie feel kind of way.

    It follows two characters through past and present. Their connection to one another isn't vivid, but it's there and it's unavoidable. Eddie sees Coralie in his dreams and she sees him in the flesh. Both are drawn to one another long before they meet face to face, but they have obstacles to overcome first. Cora's father is possessive and uses her in sick twisted ways. She is his money maker and each day she is in an exhibit, is another dark day in her life. She seeks solace in the water and makes friends with a tortoise. Her hope is that someday she will be loved as the monster she believes to be. It is Eddie that opens her eyes and heart to everything she didn't know was possible.

    The Museum of Extraordinary Things was a well crafted story with exquisite writing. The Author did a great job at creating a solid foundation with strong character development. While at times it was a tad slow, it continued to pull me back in. The words were quick to tug at my heart strings and the emotions really poured off the pages. The life Coralie lived was hell. She was a puppet and her father was the puppeteer. He controlled every movement, action, and thought. When she finally broke free from his gripp... I couldn't have been happier. It was long tough journey, but in the end I was pleased with how everything turned out.

    Overall, I highly recommend this book to all readers looking for a unique read. When I saw it had a mermaid theme I was all in. I'm definitely happy that I picked up the book and gave it a chance.
  • (5/5)
    I was a bit apprehensive about reading another novel by Alice Hoffman, because Practical Magic was a big let down for me (the film adaptation was far better!), but this my favourite kind of story, combining historical fact and fiction. Written around the events of two tragic fires in New York, at the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory and Coney Island Dreamland amusement park in 1911, Hoffman has created a magical romance between a mermaid and a budding photographer on the run from his past who are drawn together over a missing girl. Coralie, raised by the shady owner of the Museum of the title and forced to become a living exhibit herself, is fighting against the constraints of her young life when she chances across Eddie Cohen in the woods outside Manhattan, a young man who has left behind his father and his religion to make a life of his own, on his own. They naturally fall instantly in love, but without the hope of meeting again - until Coralie's father takes advantage of a gruesome discovery in the woods, which leads Eddie to the Museum of Extraordinary Things.After a slow start - the opening of each chapter is written from the perspective of either Coralie or Eddie (in italics, which drives me nuts), documenting their separate lives - the characters come to life and the mystery of Hannah Weiss, who should have perished in the Triangle Factory but disappeared without a trace, takes a sinister turn. I loved the atmosphere of early twentieth century New York - the stark injustice of rich versus poor, high rise Manhattan slowly edging nature out of existence, human beings treated as exhibits to gawk at in the tacky sideshows of Coney Island. Obviously well researched, each chapter could have footnotes, but Hoffman never takes her readers out of the story. Every line is a treasure of information and emotion.
  • (3/5)
    2.5 starsThis is set in the early 1900s in New York City. Coralie was born with webbed hands and she is an amazing swimmer. Her father runs the “Museum of Extraordinary Things”, which includes sideshow “freaks”. Coralie becomes a part of them, and feels she fits in with them. Eddie is a photographer. I listened to the audio and there are three narrators: Coralie, Eddie, and a generic narrator (voiced by Judith Light). Of the story itself, only Coralie’s story interested me. (Which is why I have said next to nothing about Eddie in my summary, as I can’t tell you much more, as my mind wandered during his parts.) As for the audio, one thing that bothered me was Judith Light’s dialogue for any character – it seemed to me very staccato/robotic, but only when she was doing the dialogue. The audio includes a short interview/conversation (that kind of disintegrates into gushing about each other’s work at times) between Judith Light and Alice Hoffman. The book/story, though – really didn’t interest me all that much, though in addition to Coralie’s story, there were some interesting tidbits about the Triangle Factory fire.
  • (3/5)
    Coralie lives in Brooklyn. Her father is a scientist and a magician; he owns the Museum of Extraordinary Things, one of those freak shows popular in the time of PT Barnum. She is part of the show, born with webbed fingers and able to submerge in water for long periods of time. Eddie is an immigrant Jew from Russia, brought up in New York City to be a tailor like his father, but rejecting his heritage to eventually become a photographer. They are brought together in a mystical manner tied up in the history of New York City during this period of time. I usually love Ms. Hoffman's books, but I had a hard time with this one. Part of it was because every other chapter is in italics, hard to read and often containing backstory that slowed the plot down. The other reason was that for most of the book, the characters were unlikable. Throw in a fascination with the first Mrs. Rochester in Jane Eyre, and I had a pretty good idea where the story was going although it seemed to take forever to get there.It does pick up some at the end when Eddie and Coralie finally meet and realize they're in love with each other, but I didn't think this was one of Ms. Hoffman's best works.
  • (5/5)
    Something of a departure from Hoffman's "witches and things that go bump in the night." this is an historical novel, set in 1911 NY and bracketed by the Triangle Shirtwaist fire and the total destruction of Coney Island when the amusement park, Dreamland, went up in flames. Well integrated in the story are the lives of photographer/"finder" of lost people, Eddie/Ezikial and Coralie, the mermaid woman/sideshow attraction in the Museum of Ordinary Things. Their lives become intertwined as Eddie searches for the murderer of a young woman who worked at Triangle and disappeared, not in the fire, but for her work as a union organizer. Meanwhile, Eddie must rationalize his schism with his father as he becomes enchanted by the "mermaid girl," a prisoner of her father's sick mind and obsessions. The pieces all work together in one of the most engaging pieces of writing in Hoffman's large catalog of books. Recommended.
  • (3/5)
    I loved all the history in this novel, the burgeoning Coney Island, the freak shows and all the strange sights to see on the Boardwalk. The descriptions of these things were amazing and this was the best characterization in this novel. I am a big time Hoffman fan, but this was not one of my favorites of hers. It did include some of her trademark magic realism but her characters, just did not draw me in, at least not after the first part of the book.There are two separate story lines going on and the connection between them was tenuous at best. I liked the characters but never felt like I really got to know them, but everyone may not feel this way. So I would say this is readable for the history alone, the sights and sounds of the boardwalk as well as the Triangle Shirt factory fire. If the characters had drawn me in more this probably would have been one of my favorites of her but alas..........ARC from publisher.
  • (4/5)
    1911 New York. A young woman's father runs a Museum featuring unusual people and animals. But she soon learns the world and the people closest to you are not always what they seem.