The Museum of Extraordinary Things by Alice Hoffman
Rating: ★★★ // not as extraordinary as I hoped.
Favorite Line:“A lifetime is a lifetime whether it lasts one night or a hundred years.”
Ugh. I really wanted to like this book more than I did, but I just couldn’t.
The story follows two characters who live harsh and troubled lives. Coralie, a young girl who lives with her father in The Museum of Extraordinary Things, and Eddie, a young jewish boy who turns away from his religion and family and finds his talent in photography and finding missing people.
Coralie is not only a resident of The Museum of Extraordinary Things, but she is also an exhibit, displayed as a real life mermaid for people to gawk at while they make their way through the strange and unbelievable feats in the museum. Coralie was born with webbed fingers which, along with her father’s strenuous training holding her breath in cold water, make her an fantastic swimmer, and a perfect addition, in her father’s eyes, for the museum.
Eddie found his calling in finding people and in photography after he left his faith and consciously separated himself from his father. This led him into an isolated lifestyle, but isolation suited him as he strongly distrust most people.
My problems with this book doesn’t come from the characters or the plot, they were interesting and complex. My main problem with the book comes in the pace–it was so slow! I kept reading and reading and reading, waiting for the plot to pick up speed and gve us some action. Yes, some books work well at this pace and the story is more about the everyday events and not the action, but this book needed the action, and it just wasn’t there.
If you read this book, you might disagree with me, because there was plenty that happened: murder, fire, attacks, etc., but to me they seemed like such a subplot that they added little, if not nothing, to the actually plot, leaving it moving at it’s own slow pace.
This book was also extremely dark and creepy. It seems that there is nothing good that happens until maybe the end. This makes it hard to read because there is no “light at the end of the tunnel” that makes you push on; instead the darkness glooms ahead, making it harder to continue to read.
Not all the book was a disaster for me, however, and this is due to Hoffman’s beautiful writing style. Her words flow together so well the story comes to life before your eyes. She builds the characters well, all of whom I enjoyed throughly, and the setting is so clear you would believe she had lived the story instead of just telling it.
I think Hoffman’s beautiful command of the written word is what kept me going in this one. It really as beautiful and for me it overshadowed the problems I had with the plot.
The last thing I wanted to mention is actually not about the book but about all the reviews I read for it. It seems that most of the reviews either love the book or hated it, which isn’t very rare, but what I found odd was all the references to The Night Circus, by Erin Morgenstern. Everyone was comparing the two and the general idea was you can’t like both–you have to choose a side!
Okay, while I did enjoy The Night Circus more than I enjoyed The Museum of Extraordinary Things, I did not connect them until I read the reviews after I finished reading it. I mean, there are similarities in the magical aspect, and the story switching between the main male and female characters, but other than those the books are nothing alike, and I don’t believe the comparison is a completely fair one.
Alice Hoffman is a successful novelist and has written 18 novels and multiple other stories. Her latest book, Faithful, was published earlier this year.