The Museum of Extraordinary Things – Alice Hoffman (August 2019)

I found this book a little slow to start with. It took me some time to get into it but I’m really glad I stuck with it. I found the jump between time spaces and characters a little jarring at first. It probably wasn’t helped by the fact that I read a chapter here and there. Once I properly sat down to read for a while it started to flow a lot better.

I do think the story gets going towards the middle of the book. I was waiting for the main protagonists to meet and there were quite a few moments when I suspected it to happen. I found this both frustrating and exciting in equal measure.

Whilst the back drop of early 1900’s New York is quite beautiful it was the characters which I loved most. The author does a wonderful job of creating some really special personalities. There’s a definite lesson about the assumptions that we make about people. Not only by how they look, for example, the wolfman. But also about a position of wealth or social class someone might belong to, for example, Juliet Block. And lastly the assumptions that we make about ourselves or others. Eddie assumes his father is disappointed in him and consumed by his own grief. Throughout the book these assumptions are proved wrong.

The theme of comradeship with those who we don’t understand or don’t look like us has ongoing resonance. I’m always attracted to stories which highlight how every day human kindness can redeem us. In our acts of kindness we can save each other. It’s heartwarming when characters pull together against a negative force. Even if the good guys vs. bad guys trope is somewhat worn out. This was beautifully illustrated by the prominence of the Hudson River and two significant fires in the narrative. The two conflicting elements hold the story together with the river becoming almost the beating heart of the narrative, holding it all together.

My favourite part, the book creates a familiar yet magical world which I felt like I fell into. I was completely absorbed and fascinated by it. I shared Coralie’s (the main protagonist) wonder and delight as if I was there with her.

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