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The Museum of Extraordinary Things

by Alice Hoffman

A hauntingly spectacular read, with atmospheric imagery rich in symbolism and magical realism. There is beauty in the prose juxtaposed with the ugly, disturbing historical context of the exploitation of the poor in the early 19th century New York City and Coney Island. Throughout the novel I was both enthralled and shocked, and I was soon keen to ‘google’ for more information on the events that formed the backdrop to this story.

Extract

A wooden crate more than five feet long took up most of the table top. As Coralie approached she found herself counting, as if that task would keep her fear at bay. She pushed open on the cover so that it slipped forward. Inside the crate was packed with solid carbon dioxide that appeared as snow. Curls of moisture rose up, which she waved away so she might peer inside. Coralie spied a shimmer of pale hair, the glimmer of flesh. The girl from the river, her blood replaced by formaldehyde, her world reduced to ice. This was her resting place, a box that would have been better used on the docks to pack bluefish or mackerel for delivery to the markets.

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