This is the first book I read by Hoffman so I didn‘t really know what to expect. I was first and foremost intrigued by the beautifully designed cover and the promise of a gothic backdrop, magic, murder and mystery.
The story takes place in New York City around 1911. Living on Coney Island, we meet Coralie growing up in the freakish surroundings of a museum of extraordinary things. Coralie would probably have been a quite ordinary girl if not for her hands, which make her a web-fingered mermaid and one of those exceptional things people can look at in the museum. The other protagonist of this story is a young, Jewish immigrant named Eddie, who tries to run away from his painful past by living and working in the streets of New York. Eventually he becomes entangled in the case of a missing girl and in the course of his attempts to find her meets Coralie.
Honestly it’s hard to express my thoughts about this book.
I liked some parts, but there were lots of things I just couldn’t get into.
I couldn’t identify myself with the characters for example. They seemed one-dimensional to me, only embodying stereotypes. Eddie was the Jewish immigrant while Coralie impersonalised a kind of innocent Cinderella who needs to be rescued by him to finally find peace. This was especially disapointing because Hoffman seemed eager to pick up the topic of feminism in her story, by describing feminist struggle about equal rights and labour legislation. She introduced this subject early in her book, so I expected a strong female lead and not a girl who is speaking and dreaming of freedom, trying to flee from one man only to become dependent of another.
The other thing which troubled me was the pace of the story. There was too little action for me for a long time and when things finally got thrilling, I only had a few more pages to go.
However, I did complete the book. For a good reason.
I really, really loved Hoffman’s style. The woman absolutely has a way with words! I was captured by her figurative language which allowed me to plunge into a different world entirely. I could picture the events happening, even imagine sounds and smells. This was not always a pleasant thing because there are lot of horrible things happening throughout the story, but I loved it anyway.
The other reason for me to finish Coralie’s and Eddie’s story was because of the themes Hoffman addresses. She describes big struggles of life like the search for truth, beauty, love and freedom and in the end you just want to know if there is a way to find those things. You want to find out if Eddie and Coralie can do it and most importantly HOW they do it. At least I felt this way.
All that said, I would rate The museum of extraordinary things with two of five feathers.
Have some of you read this novel as well?
What did you think about it?
Feel free to share your thoughts in the comments.