Maggie Anton
Maggie Anton asked:

I am astounded by all the folks who loved this book and had no problem with all the horrific subject matter. How could they "like" reading the description of the Triangle Shirtwaist factory fire, with all the girls jumping to their deaths? How could they enjoy reading how the Professor tormented our heroines, among others, and went unpunished?

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 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.
Jan Hoffman For the same reason I "loved" reading NIGHT. It was powerful and enlightening. It brought to life experiences I will, thank God, never have to live through. That does not make them any less important. I wonder how many who have read this knew nothing about that horrific part of our history prior to reading this book? How many learned something from that historically accurate part of this book. Hoffman does an amazing job of helping readers see just exactly how painful that experience would have been. It doesn't mean that because we liked the book we were not bothered by that part of history. The facts are the facts. Enjoy the writing about them, the voice, and the story that surrounds the awful truth of the time.
Raven While I have some difficulty relating to your (on the other-hand rather obvious) reaction, I think you ask an important question. Forgive me, it has been a little while since I read this particular title but if I answer for myself and for these types of stories in general, perhaps it might benefit the both of us.

I do not read such books for 'enjoyment' in the 'fun' sense of the word. Though I do not generally equate the word 'enjoy' with such reading, I suppose I do in that I appreciate the dignity, the tenderness, and focus brought to subjects others would turn their gaze from and rather forget. I would say it is no less important to remember those crushed under the wheels of progress, than those heroes who rode the crests. I find such reading generally more meaningful than stories which are easily enjoyed without demanding much of me as a reader, or a person.

I suppose it also helps that I was often treated as a 'freak' and an outcast growing up; as a result I often look to the forgotten and neglected for beauty disregarded by others. It is comforting to read authors who do the same and show caring in that regard.
Betty Maggie, I think that perhaps why people have liked this book is that they probably didn't know much about the Triangle Shirtwaist Fire until they read this. I did a session on it in adult education at my temple. I think everyone attending was aware of the tragedy, but they did not know any details. They were appalled when they did learn. It is a part of history they needed to be aware of. It gives a better understanding of why we are so violently opposed to "sweat shops".
Scarlette This is a sad but true event in history. The book was done well I would argue that no one "enjoys this aspect of history." I have read many books about disasters in history such as the holocaust and Hiroshima. I only hope to learn and disasters such as these will never occur again
Kirsten Graves Are we only to like shiny happy books and subjects? While tragic, it's nice to see history brought to light and it gives the book personality.
Susie Shortt I am touched by stories that educate and inform me about the past, especially when written with such heart and grace. I also found this story really came alive for me and I had to look at old photos and maps of NYC neighbourhoods from this era, and I am inspired to read more. Many books and movies about the Holocaust are also widely read and appreciated. We cannot hide from the heartbreaking past, and when I learn, my mind, and my heart opens up a little bit more each time.
Sarah I actually knew a little about the tragedy due to being exposed to the story as a child (the Dear America series did that for a lot of young women of a certain age), as well as some children's books I'd come across in my MLIS studies. That doesn't prevent me from reading about the tragedy in a fictional context, and it certainly doesn't prevent me from appreciating the sensitivity with which this tragedy was addressed. In the same vein, I will not shy away from reading about the Holocaust, nor from rating those books accordingly. There are terrible people in the world and, in reading fiction, we are able to sleep at night knowing that these terrible people are NOT in the world.
Maggie Anton I'm not saying everyone should only read pretty books with happy endings, but some folks are more sensitive than others. Perhaps because of my age, pushing 66, and all the horrific stuff I can read in the newspaper & on the internet, I prefer to read novels that deal with suicide, murder, etc without all the gory details. For a time I worked in a hospital burn unit, treating patients whose wounds made me vomit once I was outside. I find it almost pornographic to read about death, torture, dismemberment, etc in such vile specifics.

One of my novels dealt with the First Crusade and I used "eyewitness" records that were so graphic my editor made me tone them down. I wanted my readers to be disturbed, but a little of this goes a long way.
Cynthia Many horrific things happen in real life ! The characters were brought to life for me with their depth of emotion. The story is also based on a bit of factual history in New York. I like reading a book with depth.
Laura Epstein
This answer contains spoilers… (view spoiler)
Dayna Given this criteria, I guess we cannot love or enjoy reading many of Shakespeare's plays.
Romeo and Juliet,
Hamlet,
King Lear,
Macbeth....
with all the suicide, murder, death and betrayal?
Jack Vasen My biggest complaint is that based on the title and to some degree also the book jacket, I was totally unprepared for these things. People are welcome to read about tragedy and in many cases I often do so myself, but don't try to mislead me. (I wish I had checked Goodreads first. I often wait to avoid spoilers.)

In addition, this book is borderline exploitative. I think the situation with the "doctor" and Coralie is used that way in this book and many books. That is a sensitive issue and should not be sensationalized, especially in fiction. When you combine that situation with several others in the book including essentially child abuse and the fires, it just adds to my belief that there is too much sensationalism.

Finally, I think it was just too much. Perhaps it was accurate to the period at least in terms of society and the nature of people, but it almost seemed like every evil action possible was included in the book.
Nanci L. Although mainly a ficitional book, it is historical in the events that sadly happened. Why hide history under a barrel, this I don't understand. It happened, it's sad but it happened. History is important and shouldn't be shoved under a carpet. History shows us where we've been and how far we've come and changed so don't hide it.
Kelly It was real life! I find it interesting to see what human nature is capable of, to see how far we have come, to see how far we have yet to go. I like learn to as a human being, where we have been, to go outside of ourselves and experience ALL of human nature. My husband was of the same ilk as you... but the question is... did you stop reading it? Or were you compelled and fascinated, like a rubber necker... amazed that human beings could be so amazingly ruthless? (Why do people like horror?) If you look around the world I think you will find as much good as evil in the world, and how pack mentality does not necessarily only apply to animals.
Carol While I was not alive DURING the Triangle fire...I did know of it...however, this work, The Museum of Extraordinary Things, is a work of fiction. The author writes in a manner that makes us feel that we are there, shadowing the main characters. This is the mark of an extraordinary author. The fact that he takes true life experiences and weaves his story telling in and through them by creating characters who were "present" at the time of the historical events makes the book that much more enticing. There are horrid individuals alive in this world...thank goodness we aren't involved with the likes of them, but reading about such things also makes for a great novel. Fact and fiction intertwined is the essence of a great read!
Corey Because we don't have to agree with something to find it worthwhile. I think about "Out of Darkness" by Ashley Hope Perez. Talk about some dark subject matter! But it is also a beautifully written book about events that really happened.
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by Alice Hoffman (Goodreads Author)
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