From the beloved, best-selling author of The Dovekeepers, a mesmerizing new novel about the electric and impassioned love between two vastly different souls in New York during the volatile first decades of the 20th century.
Coney Island: Coralie Sardie is the daughter of the impresario behind The Museum of Extraordinary Things, a boardwalk freak show that amazes and stimulates the crowds. An exceptional swimmer, Coralie appears as the Mermaid in her father's "museum", alongside performers like the Wolfman, the Butterfly Girl, and a 100-year-old turtle. 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 captures with his camera the devastation on the streets of New York following the infamous Triangle Shirtwaist Factory fire, he becomes embroiled in the mystery behind a young woman's disappearance.
New York itself becomes a riveting character as Hoffman weaves her 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 Hoffman at her most spellbinding.
©2014 Alice Hoffman (P)2014 Simon & Schuster Audio
The story was a bit slow, but if I had enjoyed the narration I may have kept listening.
Judith Light did not narrate well, especially the dialogue. It was very flat and without inflection.
Coralie's voice was the most relatable.
The ending was, like the rest of the story, quite convenient and neat. Satisfying, but disappointingly simple.
The main narrator was really terrible at reading dialogue. The characters sounded like over-enthused theater majors, rather than the young men and women with difficult and (in Eddie's case) dodgy backgrounds in turn-of-the-century New York City. The rest of the third-person narration was decent, and imbued the events with the gravity they warranted, but lacked any sense of humor or character when it came to dialogue.
The driver, obviously. He'd have some stories to tell, and would probably know some good vegetarian places to eat.
This book read like a young-adult fairy tale. The characters were wooden and felt more like props in the plot rather than real people. Eddie and Coralie developed as characters, but were extremely obtuse at every opportunity. It was frustrating to watch them fail due to miscommunication and seemingly random bouts of stubbornness, when otherwise they could be very intelligent and resourceful.
That said, the storytelling was excellent. Historical fact was woven into the fiction seamlessly, leading to intimately candid glimpses of events that are usually presented as dry fact.
I really enjoyed this strange and vivid book. It is a delicate balance of precise history - the Triangle Shirt Factory fire, Coney Island at the turn of the 20th Century - and near fantasy. The narrative kept bringing to mind half-forgotten pictures, so much so I found myself online, trying to see if the images in the book were real, or imagined.
It takes great narration to pull off this kind of story - without complete conviction, some of the more fantastical elements could derail the flow pretty quickly, I think, but the two voices do a terrific job. My only disappointment, strangely, was the author interview bonus at the end. It's lovely that the author and narrator like and admire each other so deeply, but it doesn't make for insightful conversation.
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Go back to 1910 - 1911 and lose yourself in New York City. You will not be disappointed with this book.
I struggle with what to say about this book. I think the main problem I had was that the story focused so much in description of historic facts amd locations. typically i would be fine with that and, in fact, find it interesting. However, i felt that, in this instance, it actually took away from the other storylines and subplots that were developing. i felt like the romance and mystery subolplots kind if fell by the wayside. The story was engaging and i felt myself react to all the goings on, but i felt like the overwhelming amount of detail in the minutiae took away from the overall story.
The strengths of this story are the unique characters and well-researched historical detail. But somehow, the pie ex of the story don't coalesce into a smooth narrative. The (3) separate narrators may have added to this. I agree, Judith Light's narration was a distraction. ( Grace Gummer and Zack Appleman were fine ). My favorite "character " was the 100-year tortoise ...... probably not what the author was trying for.
Excellent history-based fiction about New York City, Coney Island, and how terrible women and children were treated in the early 1900s. Alice Hoffman does an outstanding job of bringing multiple characters to life. My grandmother and mother worked for the International Ladies Garment Workers Union (ILGWU) in the 1950-60's, so the references to working conditions fifty years earlier was extremely interesting and horrifying.
Peeved in Phoenix
I'm about a third of the way through the book but Judith Light's narration is so irritating that I don't think I'll be able to listen to the rest of it. She reads this book like she's reading a fairy tale to a kindergartener. Just awful.
I was hoping that I would be able to buy this book on my Kindle and read the parts that Judith Light narrates but it's not offered. What a disappointment!
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