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The Museum of Extraordinary Things

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3.72  ·  Rating Details ·  34,518 Ratings  ·  4,736 Reviews
Coralie Sardie is the daughter of the sinister impresario behind The Museum of Extraordinary Things, a Coney Island boardwalk freak show that thrills the masses. An exceptional swimmer, Coralie appears as the Mermaid in her father’s “museum,” alongside performers like the Wolfman, the Butterfly Girl, and a one-hundred-year-old turtle. One night Coralie stumbles upon a stri ...more
Hardcover, 368 pages
Published February 18th 2014 by Scribner
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Juliet Sigh. Yet another question about the very purpose and nature of fiction. LIFE isn't fair, nice, pretty, just, or happy lovely la la all the time. Do…moreSigh. Yet another question about the very purpose and nature of fiction. LIFE isn't fair, nice, pretty, just, or happy lovely la la all the time. Do you want fiction to lie to you and tell you that life is wonderful and all happy endings and all people are good and nobody dies or is unhappy or unkind? Or do you want fiction to give you a window into people you wouldn't normally be able to connect with, to see inside them and learn why they think the way they do? Do you want fiction to portray the difficult and challenging parts of life so you can see how other people deal with them, so you can see from the inside that other people feel similarly dismayed, upset, and challenged as you do? Do you want to take some comfort from the fact that true fiction shows us that we are all human beings who face difficult, sometimes tragic situations and that we have to find some way to live through them or in spite of them?

Fiction that does any or especially all of these things well is the kind of fiction I like. Fiction that does a good job of revealing what it means to be human, in all its struggle, in spite of all the unpleasantness that surrounds us is the kind of fiction I like.

Fiction that is filled with only "likeable" characters who face situations that are just a wee bit challenging and never at all disturbing and who all find happy la la endings is not the kind of fiction I like. That kind of fiction is, in fact, a big fat lie of the worst kind.(less)
Karen "Museum" immediately reminded me of "Night Circus" both because the writing style was beautiful, and because of the elements of fantasy. I loved Night…more"Museum" immediately reminded me of "Night Circus" both because the writing style was beautiful, and because of the elements of fantasy. I loved Night Circus, although I admit not much really "happened." Yet the descriptive writing was so beautiful, I could hardly put the book down. "Museum" moved at a more rapid pace, with more "real world" events. The writing was perhaps not quite as extraordinary, but still beautifully done. I liked them both a great deal.(less)

Community Reviews

(showing 1-30)
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Stuart Smith
Aug 12, 2013 Stuart Smith rated it it was amazing
It’s everything that I wanted Night Circus to be. It’s everything Water for Elephants aspired to be and just wasn’t. It has that gloomy mood of the Broadway show Side Show (book by Bill Russell) mixed with that “freak” nature that made me love Geek Love by Katherine Dunn (1989). It has hints of political and class strife like Ragtime but there is a love story here that I haven’t seen any of these works accomplish.

The prose that Hoffman tucks away in the nooks and crannies of these pages not onl
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Melanie
Feb 06, 2014 Melanie rated it it was ok
How could a novel set in such a thrilling and fascinating time period and location (New York City in the early twentieth century) be such a disappointment? I was really looking forward to delving into this world and in the end, I could not wait to finish this overwrought, far-fetched and ultimately ridiculous story. The characters were nothing more than one-dimensional creations meant to embody archetypes (the Jewish immigrant, the European charlatan, the Innocent Cinderella) and hurled into rea ...more
Heather
Jan 05, 2014 Heather rated it it was amazing
Five stars is not enough. If I could I'd give it ten stars. I can't even with this book...my heart feels like it might explode. Joy does not begin to describe how I feel after finishing one of Hoffman's books. I feel transformed. Am I the only one who ever feels this pure rush of emotion after reading a book? I hope not.
Melissa
3.5 stars

What struck my curiosity with this one was exactly that - the thrill of entering a world full of curiosities, oddities and wonder. This was my first dose of Alice Hoffman's writing and I’m pretty confident when I say, it won’t be the last of her books I read. Even though The Museum of Extraordinary Things wasn’t everything I imagined it to be, there was a beauty and a depth to her words that kept me going.

The Museum is a place of illusions, bogus science and a cruel professor. For abou
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Elaine
Nov 02, 2013 Elaine rated it it was amazing
Shelves: first-reads
Two confessions:
1. My first Alice Hoffman book
2. I was concerned I would constantly compare it to Night Circus
So, having finished the book I:
1. I want to read more Alice Hoffman
2. What Circus??
Don’t get me wrong I loved Night Circus but for different reasons.
Coralie and Eddie’s stories kept me equally enthralled as these two young people each struggled to find their own way in the world despite and because of their families and backgrounds. I thought the ties to historical events were well rese
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Katie
Sep 09, 2013 Katie rated it liked it
Shelves: galleys
I fear that I am a little close to this subject to be able to appropriately judge it. For the sake of full disclosure, I have to admit that I manage the museum collection for the Coney Island Museum, so I know the history, I know the stories of the Dreamland fire, the various visits by famous people, the layout of the attractions, and the generally surprising stories of 1911 Coney Island. That being said, there is little new in the way of Coney Island history. It has all been written before.

At f
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B the BookAddict
Feb 07, 2014 B the BookAddict rated it did not like it
Recommends it for: don't bother
Recommended to B the BookAddict by: stupid me:(

Two words – horribly disappointing.

I'd be really relieved if Alice Hoffman stepped up to say she was busy cataloguing her library of obscure Latin books on topography and so paid someone else to write this novel for her. Because that's how unlike Hoffman's usual books, this latest offering is. This novel contains none of her signature lyrical sentences and not one character you can admire or understand. There is nothing whimsical here, no brooding relationship; it is not a story you wish you co
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Erica
What just happened?

I think I'm turning into a monster, a horrible monster who hates everything and everyone and lives on dissatisfaction and bitterness.

How in the world could I not have loved this book? I mean, look at the title! The cover! The synopsis! It's full of promise and I was lured in by the tantalizing story of a girl who grows up alongside her father's museum of oddities and assortments and is, herself, abnormal and is trying to come to terms with her perceived place in the changing w
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Diane S ☔
Aug 21, 2013 Diane S ☔ rated it liked it
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
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Felicia
Aug 02, 2015 Felicia rated it liked it
Shelves: fantasy
I love Alice Hoffman. I just think I've read too many "quirky freak show/circus people in fantasy or alt-worlds" lately. Or just in my life. This is a nice book though, the writing is lovely as always, I just felt like the ending didn't kind of live up to the beginning somehow? It felt rushed.

Basically this book reminded me of the Night Circus a lot, which I loved more and read too close to this, so there's probably that that's making me circumstantially biased. It's a very nice book! And I'm a
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Saffron
2 Stars!

This was sloooooowwwww!!! Oh so slow for my tastes. I think maybe I was expecting something else when I picked this book up. But NOTHING happened in this book. It was a bunch of short anecdotes of people involved in the museum with one consistent backstory that popped up every now and then. Like for two pages, admist all the walking, staring into the mirror and 101 on how to be a pathetic character.

And then the major development of the book, the development promised in the blurb happen
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Carol
3.5 STARS Gosh, I really have mixed emotions about this latest Hoffman offering. The first part of the book did not initially draw me in or hold my interest, and it took almost half-way thru to see where the story was headed with any connection between Eddie and Coralie, the protagonists. There are great secondary characters though, particularly Maureen and Mr. Morris as well as the vile Professor Sardie (Coralie's father) who exploits every animal and human alike including his own daughter all ...more
Jenna
What a ride!! I'll be posting my review tomorrow...right now I have to pull myself together and get my emotions back in check. Wow! This is my favorite of the year so far.

It may seem like I am giving the book away, but I promise that I am barely touching the surface. Okay, here goes:

****************************************************

“This is the dawning of the Age of the Aquarius…Aquarius! Aquarius!”. I’ve never had that song in my head, ever. Well, maybe the night after I saw the traveling pr

...more
Paul Pessolano
Jan 12, 2014 Paul Pessolano rated it really liked it
“The Museum of Extraordinary Things” by Alice Hoffman, published by Scribner.

Category – Fiction/Literature Publication Date – February 18, 2014

This book goes beyond Fiction/Literature with adding Romance and Historical Fiction to the story. The story takes place in the early 1900’s in New York City. Alice Hoffman gives insight what it must have been like to live at this time in a city that contained unbelievable wealth and unbelievable poverty. She frames her story around two major fires that to
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Emma
Apr 18, 2015 Emma rated it liked it
Shelves: historical
The first half was quite good. I thought the reviewers had it wrong and that the stars should be higher.. But the second half, I lost interest and ended up speed reading . My first book by this author. It might well be the last.
helen the bookowl
This was an interesting read about Coralie who was born with a deformity, and who now works for her father in The Museum of Extraordinary Things. This museum is placed on Coney Island in the 1900s, and it's an exhibition of magical or deformed creatures who are not considered humans.
This story is also about Eddie; a photographer working in New York City. Every second chapter is told from his perspective, and the rest is told from Coralie's.
While this was a very intriguing story about how abnor
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Dustin
Feb 25, 2015 Dustin rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: Everyone

“Listen, and you’ll hear a story being told, one you may need to know.”

My introduction to Alice Hoffman isn’t exactly memorable.
Practical Magic which spawned the 1998 film, starring Sandra Bullock, Nicole Kidman, and Goran Visnjic, seemed to primarily focus on the progression of plot, as opposed to character development. In between chapters, I seem to recall there being interludes containing various ingredients, mostly natural herbs, which, in light of the rest of the 1995 novel, added a little
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Dianne
Sep 20, 2013 Dianne rated it it was amazing
Spellbinding! There is so much to captivate you here – the story, the language, the history, the characters, the construction of the plot and the narration devices - all are masterfully done.

The story of Coralie and Eddie is primarily book-ended by two actual events – the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory fire in New York City on March 25, 1911 and the Dreamland Amusement Park fire on Coney Island on May 27, 1911. Ms. Hoffman clearly did her research on these events – there is vivid detail here and so
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Amber



Thank you NetGalley and Scribner for an advanced copy of this book.

This story is about Coralie and Eddie. The books alternates between their narrations. Their separate narrations also alternate between 1st person and 3rd person. I found this to be a bit odd, but the book was so entertaining that it didn't bother me much. Coralie's father runs "The Museum of Extraordinary Things" on Coney Island in the early 1900's. This museum is attached to their home. Coralie reminisces about her past, but mo
...more
Patricia
Mar 06, 2014 Patricia rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
I bought this on impulse and wish I hadn't.
While at times the writing the lovely, I found the subject matter distressing.
An ex magician runs a museum of "natural wonders" on Coney island, he's a vile and disgusting man who exploits everyone who works for him including his daughter.
There are so many ugly things in this book, parents who sell children, vulnerable people who are exploited, cruelty to animals, the cruelty of people to each other.
The book also contains lengthy descriptions of two re
...more
Tara
May 28, 2014 Tara rated it really liked it
This is my first Hoffman book. I had no interest in her earlier works, haven't yet read Dovekeepers (on my list), but was intrigued by this story. I'm from Long Island and grew up with Coney Island and its mythic shadow. So I'm coming at this reading as sort of a Hoffman virgin. And the book for me was well done enough that I enjoyed it and want to read Dovekeepers for sure.

What worked and didn't work? I guess from a fellow writer's pov, I know how hard it was for her to accomplish all she did.
...more
Shahirah Loqman
May 09, 2015 Shahirah Loqman rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fantasy, read-in-2015
Gosh this book, was truly something! I picked it up on a whim and didn't expect to like it at all.

The story revolves around extraordinary people who are being displayed in a Brooklyn museum. Coralie, the daughter of the museum owner is herself, a wonder. But only wishes to be ordinary and fall in love.

Which is what happened when she met Eddie, an outcast photographer.

I loved the story plot, switching between Eddie's and Cora's POV. The story revolves around the search for a missing girl and t
...more
Marnie  Krüger
This book took forever. In fact I think it sort-off cause a reading slump.

Firstly I have to say that this was a new genre for me, and judging by this book one I'll never read again. I just couldn't get myself to care about the History in this book. Yes it was horrific, yes it was hart breaking, but it just never spoke to me.

The writing was beautiful, although very repetitive at stages. And this dragged the story out just that extra bit to much for me. It felt like nothing happened in a few chap
...more
Britany
Feb 01, 2014 Britany rated it really liked it
4.5 Stars! I really loved this book. The magic, the storytelling, the history, and the characters were spot on. At first, I didn't care for the constant Italic sections, but quickly got over that.

The chapters alternate between Coralie and Ed Cohen. Two broken individuals, each trapped in their respective lives, and needing each other to break free of the restrictions they've placed on themselves. The World is theirs...

Coralie, a child growing up with Professor Sardie in a house filled with oddit
...more
Lisa
Oct 15, 2016 Lisa rated it really liked it
4.5 stars
A beautiful story set in turn of the 20th century Brooklyn. Our two POV's are Eddie and Coralie whose lives come together after a tumultuous history on both sides.
She a mermaid performing in the museum owned by her father of dubious reputation and he a Jewish boy who has turned his back on his father and religion to become a photographer and founder of 'lost' people.
A young woman is murdered which leads Eddie on a mission that will bring him to Coralie and his destiny.
I loved this book.
...more
Laura
Nov 11, 2014 Laura rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
(1.5 stars since it's just about readable)

I did not get on well with this book AT ALL. I found that surprising considering it’s set in an interesting period of history (early 20th Century) in a fascinating place (New York), is based around a freak show, a tragic factory fire and the mystery surrounding a missing girl. It’s also set in Brooklyn (where I’m currently living). With all that in mind, it’s amazing that it was SO FLIPPING DULL.

A breakdown of my peeves:

1) Annoying faux Olde Worlde langu
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Brittany
Jan 03, 2014 Brittany rated it liked it
Recommends it for: Fans of The Night Circus or Life After Life
How I Came To Read This Book: I received an ARC from the publisher to review for my blog.

The Plot: The story is told from two alternating perspectives. Each chapter is rather long, with the first half being told in first person, typically reflecting on past events, and the second half being told in a relatively omniscient third person. The entire story in the present takes place over about 3 months in the Spring of 1911. Coralie Sardie is the motherless daughter of the owner of a museum that hol
...more
Melissa Crytzer Fry
Jul 04, 2014 Melissa Crytzer Fry rated it it was amazing
It’s been years since I’ve read an Alice Hoffman book, and I’m reminded that I let far too much time pass (I fell in love with Here on Earth back in the 90s). I thoroughly enjoyed this book – from the extraordinary people and animals in the museum to the quirky habits and shared sadness of the main characters Coralie and Eddie.

This is the kind of book that can be read and enjoyed for its entertaining storyline alone – OR the kind of novel that, if you dig in a little and examine the words and co
...more
Aoife
4.5 Stars

The Museum of Extraordinary Things tells the dual tale of Coralie and Eddie. Coralie's father owns The Museum of Extraordinary Things, located near the historical Dreamland amusement park on Coney Island, Brooklyn, in 1911. Coralie was born with webbed fingers and has to pose as 'human mermaid' in the museum. Eddie is running away from an Orthodox Jewish lifestyle and is a photographer. Coralie and Eddie's lives become intertwined the same year as the Shirtwaist Factory Fire and the Dre
...more
Anna
Sep 05, 2015 Anna rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Anna by: goodreads, npl, ah
“... a man has many lives. Each day we chose the path we would take by our own actions... 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 give and what we made for ourselves.”
― Alice Hoffman, The Museum of Extraordinary Things

Eddie is an angry, bitter young man with an incredibly cynical world view. He has estranged himself from his father, has replaced him with two pillars of the community of the Low
...more
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Alice Hoffman was born in New York City on March 16, 1952 and grew up on Long Island. After graduating from high school in 1969, she attended Adelphi University, from which she received a BA, and then received a Mirrellees Fellowship to the Stanford University Creative Writing Center, which she attended in 1973 and 74, receiving an MA in creative writing. She currently lives in Boston and New York ...more
More about Alice Hoffman...

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“(Love) 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.” 38 likes
“The truth frightens people because it isn't stable. It shifts every day.” 25 likes
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