genre: historical fiction
Coralie's life as the daughter of an illusionist-turned-side-show-museum-operator is anything but ordinary. Coney Island at the beginning of the 20th century was a place to escape - and The Museum of Extraordinary Things provided guests with wonders to amaze and astound, for a price, and all carefully designed and lorded over by Coralie's father.
On another side of New York lives Eddie, an immigrant living in the Lower East Side whose flight from the orthodox community of his childhood has left him with little but himself to rely on. When Eddie and Coralie's lives intersect, their story begins to flash with new meaning and a deeper longing for more than the life they'd been handed.
For the most part, I really liked this. It was solid historical fiction and I felt completely immersed in this New York of the past, there are two significant historical events that directly affect the plot of this story and I thought the writing in these scenes absolutely dripped with authenticity, every sense was wrapped in the moment. I had to go online and learn more after I listened to these parts. I happen to already be very interested in New York during this time - the immigrants, the labor politics, the way of life. And while it is definitely historical fiction, there is also, by the nature of these "wonders" that Coralie's father employs, as well as parts of Eddie's life, a certain magical quality - I wouldn't go so far as to say magical realism but just a sprinkle of something MORE than what meets the eye that can't be explained.
This audio production had three readers - a narrator, Coralie and Eddie, so the story was constantly told from three different points of view, which I found refreshing, it kept things interesting. I do have to say, the reader for Coralie wasn't my favorite - I wanted more emotion from her sometimes. And the other thing I must say is that the beginning sort of drove me crazy with all the flopping between time periods and people. I'm glad I stuck it out though because there is so much beauty in this story. There is also some hideousness, where the rank underbelly of humanity somehow finds itself in charge and the weak have to obey. But the beauty overcomes and that's the kind of story I like.
There was so much going on and it all fell into place so well, as wonder and the extraordinary leave the stuff of dreams and grace us here in real life. I would read more by this author.
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